Residents of the south metro area know the value of the Regional Transportation District's light-rail system, with the presence of the Southwest and Southeast Rail Lines. Get on a train and the popularity is obvious. Ridership far exceeds initial projections, with much more rail to come.
RTD's FasTracks transit expansion program will build 122 miles of new commuter rail and light rail, 18 miles of bus rapid transit service, add 21,000 new parking spaces, redevelop Denver Union Station and redirect bus service to better connect the eight-county district.
Right now, RTD has 81 miles of rail and bus transit in construction or soon to begin construction and has invested $4.7 billion across the region. The West Rail Line — which travels from Denver Union Station to Golden — will be opening on April 26, eight months ahead of schedule. The Denver Union Station project is 80 percent complete, and the East Line to the airport, the Gold Line to Arvada and Wheat Ridge and the first segment of the Northwest Rail Line to south Westminster are 35 percent complete. Also, the I-225 Rail Line through Aurora and the express lanes as part of the U.S. 36 Bus Rapid Transit Project are also under construction.
However, despite all the progress, RTD has its challenges in building out the whole FasTracks program, largely due to increased costs and lower-than-expected revenues due to the recession. One of the projects that is on hold until RTD has funds to build it is the Southwest Rail Extension from Mineral to C-470/Lucent Boulevard in Highlands Ranch. The station there will also include a 1,000-space Park-n-Ride. RTD has invested $25 million in this project, including acquiring the property at Lucent Station, purchasing light-rail vehicles, and planning and engineering for the station. While staff continues working on design efforts, the crucial issue is finding a way to fund the build-out of the extension sooner rather than later. The key is working together to make it happen.
In early February, I hosted a meeting with elected officials and staff from Arapahoe and Douglas counties, the cities of Centennial, Englewood, Greenwood Village and Littleton, Denver South Economic Development Partnership, Highlands Ranch Chamber of Commerce, Highlands Ranch Community Association, Highlands Ranch Metro District and the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce. RTD General Manager Phil Washington, RTD staff and I discussed the current status of FasTracks and the Southwest Extension. Our plan moving forward includes establishing a task force with our partners to discuss alternative financing strategies to get this extension built as soon as possible.
Additionally, the FasTracks Citizens Advisory Committee is holding its quarterly public outreach meeting on March 20 from 7-9 p.m. at the SouthRidge Recreation Center in Highlands Ranch. This is a great opportunity for you to learn what's going on with RTD FasTracks.
RTD is committed to building out the entire FasTracks program, and the way to get it done is by keeping a regional perspective and working together.
Kent Bagley is an RTD board director representing District H, which includes all or parts of Littleton, Cherry Hills Village, Greenwood Village, Highlands Ranch, Centennial and Columbine Valley.