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Flaggers close to being cleared along commuter rails

Full testing on the G Line will soon commence

Posted

State regulators on March 28 said flaggers posted for two years along the Regional Transportation District's University of Colorado A Line will soon be allowed to go home.

The decision by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission also clears the way for final testing on the G Line, which operates on similar gate technology, between downtown and the western suburbs of Arvada and Wheat Ridge, subject to federal and state oversight.

The Commission ruled 3-0 that it is in the public interest to allow further relief for RTD to move forward, subject to the conditions of its Federal Railroad Administration waiver.

“That means RTD can apply the crossing warning buffer times approved in its FRA waiver to certify correct crossing operations at the A-line crossings, and can move forward with gradual removal of the flaggers upon successful field verification for each crossing, once the FRA has approved RTD's flagger demobilization plan,” explained Terry Bote, external affairs manager for the Public Utilities Commission.

The G Line, once RTD has obtained a waiver from the FRA, will be allowed to proceed under the same conditions.

The flaggers were posted at intersections along the A Line in 2016, before the line opened on April 22, after state and federal regulators spotted problems with the timing of the crossing gates. The gates were coming down too early and staying down too long as a train approached, sometimes up to three minutes.

But RTD, and its private contractor Denver Transit Partners, for months have pushed to correct the problems and to send the flaggers home, saying they have made improvements to the software controlling the gates. Denver Transit Partners pays for the flaggers, which RTD officials have said cost "several million a month.”

The problems also stalled progress on the G Line, which was supposed to open in October 2016, but remains in limbo, with a few more months of testing needed before the line can open to passengers, RTD officials have said.

“This is a very positive step forward in the process and we greatly appreciate the ruling by the Commission,” said Lisa Trujillo, manager of project outreach for RTD. “We first need to receive the written orders from the Commission before we are certain about all requirements, we also need to receive FRA approvals. We still have several steps to complete.”

The official written order from the PUC will take about two weeks to come out.

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