Englewood requests rail planning grant

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Englewood has applied for a grant to take the next step after completing a yearlong study and development of the light rail corridor station area master plan.

“We received a grant from the Denver Regional Council of Governments for the recently completed study,” Alan White, community development director, told the council at the July 8 study session. “Now, DRCOG has announced the availability of a new round of grants, called next step grants, that would allow Englewood to analyze in greater detail the feasibility of some of the key projects identified in the light rail station master plan for development around the Englewood and Oxford stations and the proposed Bates station.”

He said the application for a $200,000 grant will be submitted in late July and the grant awards are expected to be announced in September. White said, if approved, DRCOG will require a $40,000 city match, which is in the community development budget.

White said the grant would be a great opportunity to take all the information in the station master plan to the next level and it would make it possible to evaluate the feasibility of some of the recommendations in the station area master plan.

The community development director said if DRCOG approves Englewood's next step grant request, the city could have a contract with a consultant approved by the end of the year. That would mean starting the next step study possibly in early 2014.

One recommendation targeted for additional study is a rail trail, which would provide an off-street pedestrian and cycling trail from Bates Avenue to Big Dry Creek with bridges spanning Dartmouth, Hampden and Oxford avenues.

White said bridges over the streets are expensive and one proposal is for the city to talk with the Regional Transportation District about the possibility of using the FasTracks funds designated for the Bates Station for other important projects, such as the bike and pedestrian bridges across Dartmouth and Oxford.

FasTracks is a program to expand public transportation in the Denver metro area with 119 new miles of rail transportation and enhanced bus transportation. The fund came from a 2004 voter-approved increase in sales taxes designated for RTD. The cost estimates proved less than revenues, so RTD is trying to find alternative funding or will lengthen the time for completion of the project.

The FasTracks plan included building a light rail station on Bates Avenue in Englewood when the former south area of the General Iron Works site was developed. The proposal would have RTD, Englewood and the developer each paying a third of the cost of building the station. However, a number of circumstances increased the estimated cost of building the station from about $6 million to almost $20 million. The station cost and other factors indicated Bates Station may never be built.

Mike Flaherty, deputy city manager, said the discussions with RTD have been good. He said the next step is to make a formal request to use the Bates Station funding for other transit-related uses.

White added that RTD funding cooperation could speed up the implementation of plan recommendations such as the bike/pedestrian bridges.