RTD sets R-Line reopening in Aurora, new safety rules after derailment
RTD sets R-Line reopening at Aurora derailment intersection, with new safety
Train operators face lower speed limit on approach and new stop requirement at
A derailed RTD R-Line train sits off the tracks at the intersection of South
Sable Boulevard and East Exposition Avenue in Aurora on Sept. 21, 2022. At
least three people were injured, according to emergency responders. (Photo by
Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)By JON MURRAY | jmurray@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx | The
Denver PostPUBLISHED: November 16, 2022 at 12:51 p.m. | UPDATED: November 16,
2022 at 6:39 p.m.
A four-mile stretch of RTD’s R-Line is set to resume operating in late November
after a state commission on Wednesday signed off on new safety rules planned
for an Aurora intersection where light-rail trains have derailed twice.
Train operators will face a speed-limit reduction from 35 mph to 25 mph on a
straightaway as they approach the intersection of South Sable Boulevard and
East Exposition Avenue. They also will have to stop before entering the
intersection, where the track turns 90 degrees and has a 10 mph limit.
The Regional Transportation District says it anticipates service “will be fully
restored beginning the week of Nov. 28” — more than two months after the most
recent derailment on Sept. 21. Since then, the R-Line has been closed between
the Florida and 13th Avenue stations.
At its meeting Wednesday morning, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission
approved the initial safety measures outlined in RTD’s corrective-action plan
for the incident, according to an RTD news release. It also asked for more
information by Dec. 31 about RTD’s proposals to add more signs along the track
regarding the intersection curve and to move a radar-activated speed display
farther north, which would give operators more warning.
RTD has not released its investigation’s findings, and the full corrective plan
Regardless of the cause, a police surveillance camera at the intersection
recorded the southbound train clearly traveling too fast as it entered the
intersection, injuring three people. Agency spokeswoman Marta Sipeki confirmed
Wednesday that the operator, an employee for 17 years, “is no longer employed
A train derailed at the same location in January 2019, injuring nine
passengers. RTD fired the operator after citing speeding as the major factor.
The curve is one of several that R-Line train operators navigate through
central Aurora, but it’s the only one that has had major incidents.
The Aurora Police Department is no longer investigating the latest derailment
and has deferred to RTD’s probe, Sgt. Faith R. Goodrich told The Denver Post
In 2019, Aurora police investigated that incident and recommended criminal
assault charges against the operator. But the district attorney’s office
declined to file charges — in part because trains are not considered vehicles
under state law, meaning that statutes that spell out offenses for drivers’
cars and trucks don’t apply to train operators. It also found no other law
addressed light-rail operators.
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“Since there were no other vehicles involved and the train itself is not a
vehicle, we do not have jurisdiction to investigate criminal charges against
the driver,” Goodrich said about the latest derailment.
RTD’s schedule has sped up slightly from an earlier plan to restore R-Line
service in December, pending discussions with Aurora city officials about the
“train-traffic interface” at the intersection. Those talks resulted in the new
safety rules, the release says, with more coordination planned.
RTD said in Wednesday’s news release that since the derailment, light rail
operators have undergone additional training “targeting speed adherence across
the system,” and it plans more training regarding the Sable and Exposition
changes before service is restored.