Guest column

FasTracks advances one piece at a time

Column by Kent Bagley
Posted

The Southwest Rail Extension is just 2.5 miles, which seems small compared to other FasTracks lines under construction all over the Denver metro region.
However, this proposed light rail extension between Mineral Station and the intersection of Lucent Boulevard and C-470 is an important connection for so many.
The Southwest Rail Extension is one of almost a dozen projects RTD is planning to build under its 2004 voter-approved FasTracks transit expansion program — the largest in the country. The program is adding 122 miles of new light rail and commuter rail service.
People commuting from Mineral Station know how popular this line is. I often hear how folks have to get to the station before 7 a.m. to secure a parking spot in the spill-over lot across the street from the station's paved lot. They have to arrive even earlier to park in the paved lot.
Every day, almost 4,300 people board at Mineral, the Southwest Rail Line's current end-of-line station. Adding an extension would give our customers more parking, more options and more connections.
That's why I champion the Southwest Rail Extension. I've been on the RTD Board of Directors since 2008 and have seen other FasTracks projects go from having little to no funding to breaking ground because of partnerships, innovative financing and good leadership. I see the same for this project in the future.
Ten years ago, all of the metro mayors — regardless of political affiliations — stood together in a unified front to support FasTracks. I'm hoping this same can-do spirit will be conveyed on the Southwest Rail Extension.
It was a bold undertaking to get FasTracks on the ballot then, and it will take the same bold leadership to get the Southwest Rail Extension built.
RTD staff and I have been working with stakeholders over the last year to determine ways to move this project forward. Douglas County, Shea Properties, Englewood McClellan Reservoir Foundation, Highlands Ranch Metro District, the Highlands Ranch Community Association and the cities of Littleton and Englewood are all important players in getting this project completed. I've also met one-on-one with various stakeholders.
Some of the ideas that have been mentioned for completing the Southwest Extension include issuing certificates of participation — a method of financing that was used to get the North Metro Rail Line project moving forward. Another methodology is exploring the feasibility of tax-increment financing (TIF) districts, which is one of the funding mechanisms for Denver Union Station.
Even though the Southwest Rail Extension is unfunded now, activity continues to happen around the future Lucent Station. At the future end-of-line station at Lucent, Douglas County is working on a Station Area Master Plan. Farther north, the City of Littleton is looking at what the future holds for the 17-acre Mineral Station.
Littleton and RTD have recruited a team from the Urban Land Institute to visualize future scenarios for the light-rail station parking lot and the surrounding area south of Mineral Avenue and north of the Park-n-Ride lot. Littleton will also be engaging in a station area master plan process funded by a Denver Regional Council of Governments grant this fall.
Meanwhile, progress continues on other FasTracks projects around the Denver metro region. RTD is building an entire system and each piece is just as vital as the next.
I served as the RTD board member on Denver Union Station Project Authority. RTD just celebrated a huge milestone with the opening of the Union Station Transit Center last month. In July, the grand opening of the historic building will take place and I hope you will visit the project this summer. I am sure you will be excited by the transformation of Denver Union Station.
In 2016, five new RTD lines will open: the East Rail Line to Denver International Airport, the Gold Line to Arvada and Wheat Ridge, the first segment of the Northwest Rail Line to south Westminster (all commuter rail lines); bus rapid transit on U.S. 36 to Boulder; and the Interstate 225 light rail line in Aurora.
I would enjoy hearing from you. Please email your comments and questions to me at Kent.Bagley@rtd-denver.com. For more general information, go to www.rtd-denver.com.
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.