DENVER (CBS4) – There was another milestone for light rail in the metro area on Friday as the Regional Transportation District broke ground on the final stage of the Interstate 225 line through Aurora.
The line is getting built decades earlier than RTD had thought.
Right now the I-225 light rail line only goes out to the 9 Mile Station at I-225 and Parker. A planned extension goes to Iliff, but RTD broke ground on a project that will take it the rest of the way to connect with the East Line.
“Being able to have this line fully built out to Smith and Peoria is going to offer people the opportunity to get to the airport easily, to get to downtown; whether it’s a business, a sporting activity, to the theater district,” Pauletta Tonilas with RTD said. “So there is going to be yet another way for people to do that.”
The groundbreaking was made possible by an unsolicited bid by Kewitt, which came in last year. They know RTD very well, having worked on the T-REX project as well as the Union Station job.
Because they already have workers and equipment in town, Kewitt was able to come in at a great price.
Originally, RTD thought the project would take 15 to 20 years. Now, because of the bid, they are moving ahead over a decade ahead of schedule.
“We’ll be opening the East Line to the airport, the Gold Line to Arvada and Wheat Ridge, the I-225 rail line through Aurora, and then the first segment of the northwest rail line up to South Westminster,,” Tonilas said. “All of those lines will be opening in 2016 and that’s three years from now.”
The I-225 rail line zig-zags across I-255, and that’s bound to cause major traffic delays. RTD calls it’s short-term pain for long-term gain.
RTD is also hard at work doing its final testing of the new West light rail line. It’s scheduled to open on April 26. All rides on the line that day will be free. Then the next day no fares will be charged on any of the light rail lines. RTD says it wants to give riders the chance to get comfortable using the entire three-line system.