Transit sparks views

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Many who attended the recent Regional Transportation District Citizens Advisory Committee meeting in Westminster had one thing in common — dissatisfaction.

Community members and elected officials voiced strong opinions during the June 26 meeting at City Hall about the need for a rail system in the Westminster area. They told the 17-member advisory board that a bus rapid-transit system just isn’t enough.

“We are the ones having to fight the traffic every day,” said Faith Winter, Westminster mayor pro tem. “It doesn’t matter how pretty the buses are, they are still buses, and they aren’t enough.”

Bus rapid transit, BRT, is part of the U.S. 36 Express Lanes project, a $312 million, multimodule project along U.S. 36 between Federal Boulevard and 88th Avenue Street in Louisville/Superior. The project is building an express lane in each direction that will accommodate high-occupancy vehicles; bus rapid transit; and tolled, single-occupancy vehicles.

Before residents gave their opinions, project manager Nadine Lee gave a quick presentation on the project, describing the benefits of BRT. She said BRT will provide a high level of transit service with upgraded stations and improved customer interface, as well as queue jumps and transit-signal priority at interchanges for the buses.

“We are giving the advantage to the buses; that’s our focus,” Lee said. “We are trying to get the buses ahead of everybody else by giving buses the priority as much as possible.”

Although Lee did her best to describe the benefits of BRT on U.S. 36, people in the crowd weren’t convinced. Some residents told the committee they felt BRT is just a bait-and-switch tactic to eventually replace the idea of having a rail system in the Westminster area. Emma Pinter, a resident running for Westminster City Council, said as she knocks on doors in the community, she constantly hears from people about the need for rail in Westminster.

“I hear it again and again,” she said. “Our city doesn’t think we have enough adequate transportation. Buses are not enough.”

State Rep. Cherylin Peniston also spoke up during the meeting, telling the committee that her constituents in the north are not happy. She said people are not happy about paying taxes to the project but still not receiving rail.

“BRT is a nice upgrade, but we feel we are not part of the future up here,” she said. “People are not happy knowing the date to get rail continues to get father into the future. You have to hear that, and we appreciate that you are here to hear that.”

For months Westminster Mayor Nancy McNally has been encouraging people in the community to voice their opinions and concerns regarding rail to RTD. She worked diligently to get FasTracks passed by the voters, and now she’s working even more diligently to bring that project to her community, not only for her residents but for the future of Westminster.

“Rail is a system that connects the spokes to Denver, and it’s critical we get our spokes or we will be dry up economically,” she said.

The US Express Lanes project is now well under way. The project is set up in phases, with full completion set for late 2015. RTD is conducting a Northwest Area Mobility Study to determine transit priorities in the northwest region, taking into consideration conditional changes since the passing of FasTracks in 2004.

Lee said the study focuses on five key aspects: determining the remaining BRT funding priorities for US 36, evaluating the feasibility and cost of constructing the Northwest Rail in segments, evaluating the potential for extending North Metro Line to Longmont , evaluating the the potential of mobility improvements in the area and analyzing potential alternatives to facilitate reverse commuting between downtown Denver and US 36.

For more information on FasTracks, go online to www.rtd-denver.com.