RTD Considers Firing Its Contractor On The Delayed N Line To Thornton

Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
The under-construction Thornton Crossing station for RTD’s N Line in Thornton, Colorado.

The Regional Transportation District is considering whether to take legal action against the contractor building the N Line between downtown Denver and Thornton.

RTD spokeswoman Pauletta Tonilas says Regional Rail Partners hasn’t met key deadlines, including turning over the line to the agency for testing. That was supposed to happen earlier this month.

“That is affecting the project schedule,” she said. “We are now at a point where we need a sense of urgency to get the project completed and open to the public.”

RTD is considering giving the contractor, a joint venture of construction giants Balfour Beatty and Graham, formal notice of default. That could functionally remove RRP from the project and allow RTD to hire someone else to finish the work.

“The fact that this project is still not complete is completely unacceptable and frustrating to not only us at RTD, but to our stakeholders and the public we serve,” Angie Rivera-Malpiede, chair of the RTD Board of Directors, said in a press release. “We’re concerned, but plan to work toward a swift solution.”

Tonilas said the earliest the line, which also includes stops in north Denver, Northglenn and Commerce City, could open now is August. That came as a disappointment to Commerce City Mayor Benjamin Husemen, who was hoping for a May opening.

"It's very disconcerting," he said. "I am glad though to see that we have an RTD board of directors that's actually willing to take action. I think too often people accept delays for what they are."

The two sides met Wednesday, Tonilas said, and RRP's representatives said they would commit the resources necessary to complete the project as soon as possible. A company spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.

The two parties struck a deal in 2013 to build the line, which was set to open in 2018.

“What you are joining is a fraternity that gets projects done on time and on budget,” then-CEO and General Manager Phil Washington said in a press release announcing the contract. “That’s how we do things and I know that’s how you do things.”

But the project has come in both over time and budget. Its timeline was pushed back at least twice, much to the chagrin of communities along the line.

RTD and RRP sued each other over the delays in 2018. Each side blamed the other, but the suit was ultimately settled with RTD paying more than $30 million to RRP. RTD has been adding dozens of new staffers in anticipation of the line’s opening. Unlike its private contractor-operated commuter lines -- the A, B and G lines -- RTD will run the N Line itself.