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Light rail train was going 38.8 mph before derailment, RTD says

"RTD determined the derailment resulted from excessive speed into the 10 mph curve," a corrective action plan says.

AURORA, Colo. — A light rail train derailment that sent three people to the hospital in Aurora earlier this year happened because the train was going 38.8 miles per hour into a 10-mile-per-hour curve, says a newly-released Regional Transportation District corrective action plan. 

The derailment happened Sept. 21 at the intersection of Exposition Avenue and Sable Boulevard. The Aurora Police Department said paramedics checked out 24 people riding on the train, including three people who were taken to the hospital.

"During the investigation RTD determined the derailment resulted from operating at 38.8 MPH into the 10 MPH curve," the plan says.

The corrective action plan also says: 

  • RTD determined the derailment resulted from excessive speed into the 10 mph curve.
  • Inattention by the operator and failure to operate the train in accordance with established rules by allowing the train to exceed the maximum posted track speed for both tangent and curve tracks.
  • Alignment configuration differences (exclusive right of way versus street running/adjacent automobile traffic with cross-streets and driveways) contributed to operator inattentiveness.
  • Safety Management System maturity (immaturity) contributed to accident in terms of training and oversight.

In the corrective action plan, RTD said they will take these steps: 

  • Before service is restored: Implement a stop-and-proceed prior to the intersection at Sable and Exposition, meaning that light rail trains must stop prior to proceeding through the intersection.
  • By Dec. 31: Reduce speed on the track approaching the Sable and Exposition curve from 35 mph to 25 mph.
  • By Dec. 31: Add additional signage to warn of the Sable/Exposition curve.
  • By Dec. 31: Relocation of a radar sign farther north to allow more advance warning.
  • By June 30: Develop a formal plan for implementation of an Automatic Train Stop (ATS) to be installed north of the curve on A Track.

The RTD accident investigation report and corrective action plan were submitted on Nov. 4. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved the plan on Nov. 16. 

Service on a four-mile stretch of the R Line between the Aurora Metro Center and 13th Avenue stations have been paused since the derailment. RTD expects to restore service next week.

The Denver Gazette reported that Wednesday, the commission unanimously agreed to declassify some of the documents related to the derailment.

The derailment was the second at the intersection in the past four years. A woman was ejected when another R Line train derailed there during a snowstorm in 2019


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