In an April 20 letter to the Federal Railroad Administration, RTD “now asserts that the A-Line highway grade crossings are operating in accordance with the design.” The letter to FRA Chief Safety Officer Robert C. Lauby requests an extension of a waiver from certain FRA requirements “until the Colorado Public Utilities Commission certification process has been concluded.” The prior waiver had been set to expire April 30.
The PUC regulates all at-grade (surface street) railroad crossings in Colorado. The FRA has its own certification requirements including a nation-wide mandate for the next generation safety measure known as positive train control. Approvals from both agencies are required before the FRA can act on a pending “quiet zone” request from Denver and Aurora that would allow the A Line trains and freight trains in the same corridor to run quietly through the street crossings (horns would sound only in emergencies).
RTD has previously estimated quiet zone enactment within 60 days of final agency approval of the 12 at-grade crossings on the A Line as it travels between Denver Union Station and DIA. The PUC has not provided an estimate of when its final approval might be granted.
The waivers essentially have allowed RTD to operate the A Line despite gates closing sooner and opening later than the FRA requires. A condition of the waivers has been deployment of flaggers at each crossing, an expense incurred by RTD’s concessionaire, Denver Transit Partners.
RTD’s confidence that it has solved the timing glitches affecting A Line crossings is reflected in a separate, April 12 request to the FRA to allow it to “recommence integration testing and operator training for the G Line” that runs from DUS to Arvada. That testing was suspended in the fall of 2016 until “performance improvements were implemented for the A and B Lines which we believe has now been achieved.”