Train to Denver Airport Threatened with Closure over Crossing Gate Woes

The Federal Railroad Administration is threatening to revoke the waiver that allows the A-Line to operate with flaggers at grade crossings unless the Regional Transit District presents a plan by mid-month to fix the crossing gate problems.

December 3, 2018, 10:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Grade Crossing

Jeffrey Beall / Flickr

"In a Nov. 15 letter made public this week, Robert Lauby, chief safety officer at the Federal Railroad Administration, called 'unacceptable' the Regional Transportation District’s ongoing failure to provide warning times at its crossings that are within federally mandated ranges," reports John Aguilar for The Denver Post.

See CBS4 newscast on the FRA notice with excellent video of the trains themselves as well as flaggers working at grade crossings.

The A-Line has operated under an FRA waiver ever since the line opened in April 2016 because of the crossing gate challenges, which revolve around difficulties deploying new wireless signaling technology along the 23-mile line. The gates generally close earlier and lift up later than federal standards require.

The most recent waiver granted by the FRA, which required that flaggers be present at every crossing to provide a safety backstop, was for five years and was granted in September 2017.

Just six months after the A-Line opened, the FRA threatened the RTD with its shutdown along with the B-Line, a 6.2 mile, two-station electrified commuter rail line to Westminster which opened in July 2016, over the crossings gate problem. A 90-day waiver was granted.

RTD's plans to correct the problem ran afoul with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in September 2017. Labor costs for the flaggers who must perform traffic duty at the A Line's 11 at-grade crossing amounted to $6 million for the first year, paid by Denver Transit Partners (DTP), a public-private partnership that is building and operating the A-Line, B-Line and G-Line, an 11-mile, 8-station electrified commuter rail line that will go to Wheat Ridge.

The two entities have filed lawsuits against one another as the crossing gate issue has dragged out for more than two years and RTD leaders have expressed concern about how the ongoing problems with crossing gate technology are harming the agency’s reputation.

Notwithstanding the signaling problems at intersections, the A and B lines have achieved an on-time performance rate exceeding 97 percent according to DTP.

Hat tip to AASHTO Daily Transportation Update.

Thursday, November 29, 2018 in The Denver Post

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