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Meet The RTD Man Who's Been Around For All 20 years Of Denver Light Rail

The Regional Transportation District is celebrating 20 years of light rail in Denver. The first line, the Central Rail Line –or the D Line as it’s known now opened October 7, 1994 traveling from I-25 and Broadway to 30th and Downing.

One man has been riding on those rails, and the 48 other miles built since then, all this time.

Abe Martinez was one of the first light rail drivers with RTD. Working in public transport for 48 years, Martinez began his career with the Denver Tramway Company, the precursor to RTD. He admits that it's been a thrill watching light rail expand over the past 20 years, and the development that came with it.

"It has changed an awful lot and it's going to continue to change. If you go southeast out there to Lincoln and places like that and you look at all the apartment buildings and the stuff that they're building, it's just incredible," Martinez said.

That Southwest Rail Line he mentioned runs through  the metro area's fast growing Denver Tech Center and was part of the massive T-Rex project. Over the past 20 years, light rail has carried over 200 million passengers and the agency said it has saved more than 35 million vehicle trips.

Reminiscing about the grand opening of the first light rail line, Martinez said his favorite memory was having his daughter along for the first public ride.

"And she rode with me all during carrying the governor and whatever we did until the end of it, and then we went back on out to Broadway to carry the people back," said Martinez.

1994_lr_goday_30th downingstaparty_(1).jpg
Credit RTD / Regional Transportation District
Light Rail grand opening celebrations at the 30th and Downing St. station in Denver, Colorado

It's been nearly five decades since Martinez first took the helm of a bus in the 60's, and he's been on hand for every light rail line opening including the Central Platte Valley Spur in 2002, the Southeast Rail Line in 2006, and the W line between Denver and Golden in 2013. But his fondest memory is carrying Governor Roy Romer and Denver Mayor Wellington Web back in 1994.

"It just went by fast, it still don't seem like I've been here that long," Martinez reminisced. "Even my wife kind of shakes her head and says it doesn't seem like it's been that long."

Through it all, Martinez said while others may think he's a big deal as the longest serving light rail operator with RTD, he really pays it no mind.

"But then again, I've enjoyed it and have no regrets. And to me, that's the key, and the reason I've stayed doing it. I just do my job, I don't try to run everything else. I just do my job…that's what I'm paid to do, and that's what I'll do."

So what's next for RTD rail service and future openings for Martinez to attend?  

The East Commuter Rail Line to Denver International Airport is scheduled to come on line in 2016 along with the Gold Commuter Rail Line that will connect Arvada and Wheat Ridge. The 10 mile I-225 Light Rail Line will connect Nine Mile Station near Hampton Blvd. to Peoria and the East Commuter Rail Line. Construction also continues on the North Metro Commuter Line from Denver's Union Station to Adams County.

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