'This project is all about vision'

Celebration marks opening of Southeast Rail Extension

Mayor Jackie Millet steps off the train at the Sky Ridge Station May during the opening day celebration for the Southeast Rail Extension. The Sky Ridge Station is one of three stations part of the project that extends light rail 2.3 miles south.
Mayor Jackie Millet steps off the train at the Sky Ridge Station May during the opening day celebration for the Southeast Rail Extension. The Sky Ridge Station is one of three stations part of the project that extends light rail 2.3 miles south.
Nick Puckett
Posted

Lone Tree Mayor Jackie Millet got off the light rail train at the new Lone Tree City Center Station and walked across to the other side of the tracks, toward a sea of prairie to the east as far as the eye could see. Millet was there with officials from the city and the Regional Transportation District a few days ahead of the grand opening of the Southeast Rail Extension.

“Let's envision a future,” Millet said May 14, referring to an area that will eventually be considered by many to be the heart of Lone Tree.

On May 17, the grand opening celebration was the culmination of a long journey. It fulfills the promise that initially attracted major employers, such as Charles Schwab. It completes rail transit through Lone Tree with the end-of-line RidgeGate Station near the 24-year-old city's southern border. And it means major economic growth, setting the stage for RidgeGate East, with plans including attainable housing and a “downtown” area.

As Millet spoke May 17 at RidgeGate Station, she asked former mayors Jim Gunning and Jack O'Boyle to join her on stage, where she handed each a track baton, a symbolic gesture to the way the three mayors have passed the baton to complete the project.

“We have been waiting for this extension almost since the day the city was founded,” Millet said. “As the south metro area continues to grow, this is going to be a vital link for the community…This one element of transit brings all the communities of Douglas County together and we are honored to be here today acknowledging that.”

O'Boyle credited Gunning, mayor from 2008-16, for laying the groundwork for the project.

"Without the persistant tenacity of Mayor Gunning, it is not likely that we would be here today," O'Boyle, mayor from 1996 to 2008, said. "Without your good work, ideas, vision and plan, it would still be just a dream."

Though the wait for the project has spanned years, dating to before Sky Ridge Medical Center opened in 2003, RTD officials touted the project for being on time and under budget. With contributions from private dignitaries and a $92 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, the 2.3-mile rail extension has been a priority for businesspeople and politicians alike. The $233 million project is expected to make an economic impact on the city surpassing $1 billion, officials say.

As gusts swept through the RidgeGate Station, Keith Simon, vice president of Coventry Development, the master developer of RidgeGate, joked “it's the winds of development.”

The project brings three new light rail stations south of Lincoln Station for the E, R and F lines.

"It's a significant time period from conception to realization," RTD CEO Dave Genova said. "We're more than just about serving people, we're about economic develpement too, and it's going to be exciting watching this over the next few years."

The Sky Ridge Station is the largest of the three and the only one completely built out so far. At the doorstep of Sky Ridge Medical Center and a stone's throw from the Charles Schwab campus, it is projected to be the most used station out of the gate. It includes a statue mirroring the iconic Lone Tree city logo.

To get to the Lone Tree City Center Station, the train travels over I-25 on a new bridge, making the rail the only route that goes over I-25 in the entire light rail system. It brings passengers to the RidgeGate East neighborhood.

The RidgeGate Station includes a new Park-N-Ride parking garage and a piece of art made up of different brands of nearby ranches, including the “JS” brand for Schweiger Ranch, just south of the station.

Doug Tisdale, RTD board chairman, emceed the May 17 event and gave a nod to the amount of collaboration it took from private and public partners to complete this project.

“This project is all about vision,” Tisdale said. “Vision from local leadership and a vision for the future. From where I am standing now, it's a truly great vision. Before you know it, this area will be an economic epicenter.”

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