See Photos of Progress on Rail Line to DIA, on Track for Spring 2016 Opening

Train-testing on what will be known as the A-line. Additional images and a video below.
Train-testing on what will be known as the A-line. Additional images and a video below.

It seems like the construction of a rail line to Denver International Airport has been going on forever.

But finally, the end is in sight.

Testing of trains on the East Rail Line, which will be known as the A-line, is underway, and Denver Transit Partners, the consortium behind the project, reports that everything's on track for an opening in the Spring of 2016.

Here's a DTP graphic showing the plan for the entire rail system.

Note that the East Rail Line is in blue.

The majority of East Rail Line construction is now complete, the DTP notes, with "stations continuing to take shape over the course of 2015."

Hence the shift to "testing and commissioning to ensure the system is performing safely before being opening in spring 2016."

Collectively, these efforts are referred to by DTP as "Phase 1" and "Phase 2"

Here are descriptions of these parts of the project.

Phase 1

The first phase of testing, which lasts about seven months, focuses on integration testing of the following:

• Communications systems
• Signaling systems
• Ensuring traffic and rail signals communicate with one another at railroad crossings
• Testing the equipment at the new commuter rail maintenance facility (CRMF), such as the cranes, hoists and the train wash machine

Train testing includes:

• Trains running at the appropriate speed for the segment of rail
• Train acceleration and deceleration
• Safe braking performance and train stopping abilities
• Communications with the Operations Control Center (OCC) at the CRMF
• Positive train control (PTC) testing

Phase 1 also includes closing each of the railroad, or at-grade crossings along the alignment in order to test the commuter rail signaling, freight rail signaling, traffic lights, vehicle detection loops and gate arms. On the A Line, this has been completed with the final roadway closure occurring at the York/Josephine commuter railroad crossing just north of 40th Avenue in Denver. The installation of gate arms at the crossing followed the testing of the crossing.

An at-grade crossing on the A-line.
An at-grade crossing on the A-line.

Phase 2

The second phase of testing, expected to take up to five months, will begin in late fall or early winter 2015. It focuses on operator hiring and training, vehicle burn-in and the system performance demonstration.

The operator training includes:

• Classroom training
• Behind the wheel instruction
• Familiarization with the rail line, including segment speed limits and station locations
• Handling the vehicle
• Learning the proper use of the train features and functions

Vehicle burn-in requires 1,000 miles of testing per vehicle prior to opening the line. This tests the vehicles’ capabilities and verifies the vehicles will operate appropriately in accordance with the future rail line schedules.

During testing and commissioning, train horns will sound, but testing will typically occur during daytime hours.

The effort has been enormous, as is clear from a series of photos showing the placement of girders on Peña Boulevard Bridge.

Continue to see the gallery, courtesy of  DenverTransitPartners.com, followed by a DTP video showing progress since ground was broken.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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