Commuter Rail May Reach Brighton…..Someday.

In 2004, Denver voters approved FasTracks, bringing real rail transit to the entire Denver metro.  The lines, we were told, would connect all parts of the city, reaching as far as Boulder and Longmont.  Despite two new light rail lines, four new commuter rail lines, and a rapid bus transit line, this left residents of one Adams County suburb out in the wind. Residents of Brighton, Colorado, have very few transit options.  The nearest rail station is located at DIA or at 40th and Colorado, both of which are roughly 18 miles away (The North rail line will be opening up a station in 2018 at Eastlake and 120th-only 11 miles away). Brighton does receive bus service, but the cities bus stop receives only two buses a day to Denver and a couple of local routes.

Brighton is a town of about 35,000 people on US-85 to Greeley.  While that isn’t huge, it isn’t tiny.  I-76 also passes just to the East, and many commuters live in the area.  Two Northeast suburbs, Thronton and Commerce City, both topped the list of most affordable suburbs in Denver.  Much of the land needed to build out a commuter rail line to Brighton is still available, and there are two freight rail lines which already head Northeast out of downtown Denver, one of which goes right to downtown Brighton.

 

Map of current land use
From Northeast Area Transit Evaluation, published in 2007.

 

When FasTracks was planned, $7.3 million was allocated to making sure the area in the above photo stayed mostly undeveloped, at least enough of an area that RTD wouldn’t have to deal with additional property acquisition if they ever decide to put in a rail line to Brighton.  While there are no plans to construct this anytime soon, this does show that RTD is thinking ahead to the region’s future transit needs.  Why didn’t they build the line as part of the original FasTracks package?  Simply put, the demand just isn’t there. Brighton instead is planning to work with RTD to create a bus service which will run from Brighton to the Eastlake and 124th Avenue Station when service begins next year.  It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect to see rail transit at some point in the future, especially given that Brighton is on the main highway between Denver and Greeley.  In the meantime, enjoy our trip down I-76.

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