updated 4/5/2006 7:27:08 PM ET 2006-04-05T23:27:08

Denver’s mass transit agency and its largest employee union reached a tentative contract agreement Wednesday that could settle a 3-day-old strike, a federal mediator said.

Union members planned to continue the walkout until they vote on the offer Friday, mediator Christel Jorgensen said.

“Both parties worked very hard,” Jorgensen said after meeting for several hours with both sides behind closed doors. Details of the proposed pact would not be announced until after the vote, she added.

Union spokesman Dave Minshall said the group’s executive board was to meet later Wednesday to review the proposal.

A spokesman for the Regional Transportation District did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

Meanwhile, striking union members waved signs and cheered during a rally outside a downtown transit center.

“The strike needs to end A-S-A-P,” said Bill McMullen, an elected member of the RTD board who joined the rally, carrying a sign and wearing a union jacket. “We need to do everything we can to resolve this now.”

Nearly 1,750 bus drivers, light-rail operators and mechanics walked off the job Monday in the city’s first transit strike in 24 years. Many workers were upset at RTD’s wage-and-benefits offer after managers were given raises from 38 percent to 48 percent while union pay had been frozen since 2003.

Transit workers had previously rejected a wage increase of about $1.80 an hour over three years, plus increases in health benefits.

The transit authority runs bus and light-rail systems in Denver and all or parts of seven surrounding counties, a service area with about 2.5 million residents. This week, the agency has operated about 45 percent of its bus routes by using private contractors.

Even with more commuters left to rely on car pools and taxis, traffic had flowed smoothly along interstates and major roads, a highway department spokesman said.

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