Originally Posted by mr1138
I actually completely agree on that point; it is much better to build lines that are actually doable today and have ridership estimates that are justifiable. As much as Boulder may gripe about the situation they're in, I don't have any problem with the airport and other lines being expedited on the grounds that they make sense right now - considering the Boulder line simply doesn't make a whole lot of sense all the way to Boulder.
But this loops back to my original point... I think a case could be made that the ridership numbers could be justified as far as 88th and Sheridan (Westminster Center). I think the case could also be made that EMU would make sense as the chosen technology at least to this point. I don't think it makes any sense not to at least explore this possibility, or to write off another station as being as much of a lost cause as the entire line to Boulder. Or to assume for that matter that commuter rail has to share track with freight trains beyond 72nd and Lowell. If EMU can operate on dedicated tracks as far as Lowell, then why couldn't they operate in the same capacity beyond that point? I honestly wonder if this option has even been pitched to the BNSF. Granted, there are sections of the corridor beyond this point where this really does become true... the enormous earth embankment where the RR crosses Big Dry Creek comes to mind as a stretch where it would be quite difficult to build a parallel track. But so far as I can tell, this is not the case between 72nd and 88th. If the single-station "good faith" extension is feasible as far as South Westminster, I find it hard to see why it wouldn't be feasible to 88th as well.
Talked to a friend who works at RTD and he helped clear up some things. The reason that NW stops at South Westminster is because that's the end of the segment that BNSF would allow RTD to operate on their own track - anything north of there needs to be shared with BNSF which potentially creates hazards and pitfalls operationally.
As for 88th, there's operational difficulties there related to the tail tracks, a chambering track, and grade crossings that could jazz up vehicle traffic in the area. Also, that station wasn't in the original FasTracks plan (but I'm told has good ridership estimates) so Westminster and RTD would have to come to some agreement related to cost-sharing for that station - and that's assuming that the operational difficulties for 88th being an end-of-line station can be overcome. Additionally, the line north of the South Westminster Station would need to be DMU, not EMU, because BNSF trains cannot travel under the catenary wiring - and that would require an additional maintenance facility and tens of millions of dollars.
So basically, north of the South Westminster Station is a clusterf#ck.