Union Pacific Railroad sold 33 track miles north of Denver to Colorado’s Regional Transportation District for $118 million, in the first and largest of four land transfer deals to develop commuter rail in that area.
UP said the land it sold to the eight-county RTD runs from Commerce City just outside Denver to Boulder’s Valmont power plant. The railroad will keep a freight easement over the first eight miles of this track segment it calls the Boulder Industrial Lead, and which includes long sections it no longer operates.
RTD said it will use this property “to build out the North Metro commuter rail corridor,” which is part of its FasTracks 12-year bond construction program slated for 2017 completion. The bonds were issued in 2005 and the first major work is getting started this year.
As work gets under way on the segment UP just sold, the railroad plans to shift its freight operations to specified times around the construction and eventual passenger line operations.
FasTracks said its full bonding plan was designed to “build 122 miles of rail transit, including six new commuter rail and light rail lines and extensions of three existing lines,” plus bus rapid transit and a makeover of Denver’s historic Union Station.
“Three more right-of-way agreements between RTD and UP will be finalized in the near future,” FasTracks said. Those will give RTD the property to build out its East Corridor for passenger trains, a small section of its West Corridor plus its Gold Line that runs from Union Station to the north and northwest.
FasTracks spokeswoman Karen Morales said RTD will operate diesel-powered commuter trains along parts of its system that include the 33-mile section it just bought from UP, but electric trains in the other three.
She said the pending deals to be finalized with UP cover a total of 10 miles of track, and RTD will buy the corridors so it can build its own electrified rail lines. Where necessary, she said, the transit group will relocate UP tracks in those corridors for continued freight operations.
This is just one part of the country where UP is making land sales or corridor-sharing deals with passenger train operations, from local transit lines to high-speed rail. Other major railroads as well as some short lines around the country are also pursuing similar deals.
Contact John D. Boyd at email@example.com.