A Streetcar Named Desire

Will trolleys return to Colfax?

Streetcars were never a fixture on Downing Street north of Colfax, but RTD is considering adding a line from the proposed 40/40 stop to the north end of the D-line at 30th Avenue and Downing Street, continuing toward downtown on Welton Street. "We have two different alternatives for extending the existing D-line," says Mike Turner, RTD's east corridor environmental impact study project manager. "One is a double-track light-rail line along the west side of Downing, and then the other is a streetcar possibility. The difference there is that the streetcar would continue down Welton, and once it got to 20th and Welton, we're proposing that it would go down Broadway and then loop around 16th Avenue and go back around Lincoln."

The streetcars would run on the existing light-rail tracks, so businesses along Welton Street wouldn't suffer through long years of construction -- as they did in the mid-1990s, when the area was all but shut down to make way for the train service.

"The streetcar is a rail technology; it's kind of lighter light rail," Turner says. "The vehicles are somewhat smaller, and in some people's views, it's more compatible with the neighborhood. Streetcars are also a low-floor vehicle, so it's easier boarding and they can mix with traffic. Plus, it doesn't require taking existing properties, as light rail does, so it's cheaper. The construction is also less because you don't need to excavate as much for the streetcar as you would the light rail, and the streetcars are slightly less than light-rail vehicles."

Five Points Business Association executive director Marva Coleman is tentative about endorsing any plan. "I think the community still needs to be a little bit more educated about streetcars," she says. "The reaction, it's mixed. Some are excited, and some are apprehensive because of what happened with light rail. They hope it doesn't create problems for their business, like when light rail went in. I personally don't want it to isolate us from the rest of the light-rail routes. We want it to be technologically correct."

Although Turner plans to hold a public meeting next month to discuss the two options for the D-line, construction isn't expected to start on either Five Points option until 2014.

As for any Colfax streetcar system, until the feds come through with the cash, Walstrom and his cohorts will have to make do with the new "Ghost Trolley" sculpture by Lawrence Argent (creator of the big blue bear) that's scheduled to be installed on Colfax across from the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in Aurora next year.

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