USA: A groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 11 to mark the start of work on a 2·4 km extension of Denver RTD’s I-225 light rail line from Nine Mile to Iliff. Participating in the event were representatives from RTD, Colorado Department of Transportation and SEMA Construction.

The light rail extension is being combined with CDoT’s programme to widen the orbital highway from Parker Road (Nine Mile) to Mississippi Avenue, enabling the two schemes to share resources and minimise inconvenience to local residents and travellers.

The existing I-225 branch to Nine Mile forms a spur off RTD’s Southeast Line, and a 16·9 km northwards extension to Peoria with eight stations forms part of RTD’s FasTracks expansion strategy. This would provide interchange at Peoria with the EastRail commuter rail line to Denver Airport which is now under construction.

Although no timetable had been set for construction of the I-225 extension, RTD received an unsolicited proposal that the short section to the first station at Iliff should be built in conjunction with CDoT’s road widening. After ‘the proposal was found to have merit’, RTD issued a request for proposals in early May to launch a competitive bidding process, with the aim of awarding a formal construction contract in the summer.

The light rail works will be funded by $90m out of the $305m of short-term funds which had been allocated in the 2011 FasTracks Financial Plan for work on projects not yet in construction or under contract.

As well as building the tracks along the highway corridor and rebuilding two bridges, the work will include a new station and bus-rail interchange at Iliff, together with a 600-space car park. With LRVs running every 15 min, the extension is expected to attract around 1 400 additional riders per day.