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West rail line opens with fanfare, fun

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By Ramsey Scott

Nothing says mass transit like drum circles and muscle cars.

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With the grand opening of RTD’s west light-rail line on Friday, RTD partnered with municipalities along the 12.1-mile track that connects Union Station in Denver to the Jefferson County government center to put on two days of fun.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet were among those on hand Friday to help celebrate the first train to travel on a regular run along the W Line from the Jeffco government building to downtown Denver. To help continue the party, 11 different stations along the line hosted parties Saturday as RTD offered free fares for the day on its light-rail system.

Hundreds packed each station Saturday as people took advantage of the sunny weather and free entertainment. RTD estimated that tens of thousands attended the free events and rode the new line over the two days.

“I came down to see the party and ride the train,” said Wanda Padilla, who was dancing at the Decatur/Federal Station along with a large group of people. “It’s just a good day to get out and see what the stations had to offer.”

Parties varied from station to station and featured everything from Denver Broncos cheerleaders and marching bands to free food and climbing walls, and from hot rods to percussion ensembles. 

“We didn’t know what we were going to do today, so we figured we could come down,” said Karen Current. 

Current, along with her husband and daughter, made the short trip across the street to the Perry Station at Perry Street and West 12th Avenue. Current and her husband moved into the neighborhood in 2008 in part because of the yet-to-be-constructed W Line.

While the construction on the W Line caused headaches on occasion, especially when the Sheridan Bridge was being installed, Current said it made it easier knowing there was an end in sight. And now that the line is finished, Current is looking forward to a less stressful commute to work. 

“I work downtown, so I’m really excited,” Current said. 

The new W Line is the first part of the voter-approved $6.4 billion FasTracks program, which will add 122 miles of expanded rail service that also will connect Wheat Ridge and Denver International Airport to downtown Denver. 

Construction on the $709 million west line began in 2007 and received a $300 million federal grant in 2009 to help complete the project.

 

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.