Friday, April 26, 2019

Chugga Chugga Choo Choo

We found out that we won the project in the third quarter of 2010. I moved into the project office to start design in the fourth quarter of 2010. Along the way, I moved to the construction office. In 2014, I transitioned off the project and back to normal life in the Denver HDR office. It finally opens today. 

Courtesy of Mike Flick (that's me, yo)
The A-Line opened to the public in April of 2016. At the time, it was a huge relief to get the first of the new commuter rail lines up and running. Despite a few hiccups (stranding passengers on a bridge, requiring bus bridges, etc) and the jokes courtesy of Kyle Clark, the A-Line has been running smoothly since the first passengers embarked three years ago. Yes, there have been issues with FTA, FRA, and PUC approval. Yes, there have been flaggers positioned at every at-grade crossing for what feels like eternity. Yes, there have been letters flying back and forth between RTD and DTP. But the train has been running. And people have been riding. Lots of people. 

In 2010, we began design on what we referred to as the East Corridor - the tracks stretching from Union Station to the airport (the infamous A-Line). I was a young whippersnapper designer on the roadway team, responsible for the physical at-grade crossing design, the adjacent roadway design, and all sidewalks and pedestrian crossing facilities. We powered through our preliminary design and submitted it to the client. That was the end of my A-Line career. 

At that point, I transitioned with a couple other individuals to focus on the Gold Line, the portion of the project from where the tracks split with the Northwest Electrified Segment (the B-Line) at Pecos Junction to the new Ward Road Station. I was the lead designer of the same elements as on the A-Line - the sixteen at-grade crossings in Adams County, Arvada, and Wheat Ridge; along with any adjacent roadway/sidewalk/trail designs. For four years, I worked on primarily on that portion of the project, working hand-in-hand with the contractor, RTD, the local public agencies, and the design team to construct this western half of the project. The G-Line was my baby. My pride and joy. 

The B-Line opened in July of 2016, just a few short months after the A-Line's inaugural run. The G-Line sat in silence. 

Courtesy of Colorado Public Radio
I live in west Arvada. Ward Road Station is only a 5 minute drive from my house. It was extraordinarily convenient for me to swing down Ridge Road to check out the status of the construction. I watched my roadway work go from plans to reality. I watched the sidewalks and pedestrian crossings do the same. The stations emerged from the ground. The overhead catenary system was installed. Then the construction equipment disappeared. Everything was built. The trains never came. 

I remember hearing that the testing was going to begin on the G-Line. I was ecstatic. Any excuse to drive past the G-Line was a good excuse to try and see a train. I was leaving Target in February of 2018 and I cut through the apartment complex to Miller Street. The gates were down. A train was traveling on the tracks. REVENUE SERVICE WAS JUST AROUND THE CORNER. That was over a year ago. 

But today... today is the day. In a little less than an hour from the time of this post, trains will be running with regular people on them (and no horns!). To say that I have been waiting for this day for a while now is an understatement.


Courtesy of