By Jeff Todd
DENVER (CBS4)– Time is running out for RTD and Denver Transit Partners to work out software kinks in the A Line. The commuter rail is operating on a temporary extension permit from the Federal Railway Administration which expires Nov. 5.
“The train, as it’s approaching the crossings, it’s talking to them by Wi-Fi basically. To get them to acknowledge and shut down right when it needs to. That’s taking some fine tuning of the software,” said Nate Currey with RTD. “The gate is closing a little too early and it’s coming up a little too late, so it’s erring on the side of safety of course.”
But that’s not meeting the federal regulation. The RTD A and B Lines are the first lines in the country operating under specifically built positive train control. It’s a regulation that will be installed in all trains in the next three years but is a first for RTD and a first for FRA, according to Currey.
Since the A Line opened and until the software issues are resolved, flaggers have been at every intersection where the trains cross the road
The FRA sent CBS4 a statement reading, “While trained flaggers, wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, at every crossing do keep motorists, pedestrians and train passengers safe, this has never meant to be a long-term solution. FRA granted RTD temporary permission to use flaggers at its railroad crossings while RTD and its operator, Denver Transit Partners, resolve timing issues with the crossings. FRA has granted RTD an extended short-term, three-week extension to continue using flaggers with conditions that ends November 5. During this time, RTD must also develop a plan that demonstrates to FRA it has a path forward toward a solution to resolve the timing issues at the crossings.”
Currey said representatives from Denver have been meeting with officials from FRA in Washington D.C. this week, but there’s no resolution on the expiring permit.
“The worst case scenario is that we would have to halt operations until they give us the thumbs up. That’s not in anyone’s best interest, not in RTD’s, not in FRA’s, not in the public’s,” said Currey. “We’ve had a contingency plan in place regardless of this, in case there was a shutdown or natural disaster something like that. We have a backup plan that we’re confident in.”
That would involve replacing the rail service with buses.
The software issue triggering the crossing gates has created other problems for RTD. The G Line through Arvada still has no opening date, and won’t until the issue is resolved. RTD has maintained a “Fall 2016” opening but no specific timetable has been announced. It may be on hold longer depending on what happens with the FRA on Nov. 5.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.