NEWS

Feds put $424 million into FasTraks, Union Station

Date: Feb. 7th, 2010
Contact: Mike McPhee Phone: 303-954-1409
The announcement of a $304 million federal loan Friday gave the green light to the redevelopment of Union Station as a major Front Range transportation hub.

After at least six years of planning, the loan, guaranteed by the city and county of Denver, will let the $480 million project begin.

"Union Station is going to happen," said a gleeful Phil Washington, newly appointed general manager of the Regional Transportation District. "All the funding is now in place."

Elbra Wedgeworth, volunteer chairwoman of the Denver Union Station Project Authority, said she was relieved the project has finally been funded. "This is the last hurdle," she said. "This will become the new legacy for our city."

Construction manager Bill Mosher of Trammell Crow Co. said Union Station construction could begin in the next couple of months and continue for four years.

Numerous private developers who attended the news conference by Federal Transit Administration chief Phil Rogoff on Friday afternoon said they are already beginning to plan projects based on the repositioning of Union Station as a transit center.

"This is a historic day for Denver," said Dana Crawford, the developer credited with jumpstarting redevelopment of the historic Lower Downtown district near the station.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet told the crowd of about 100 dignitaries gathered near the tracks west of the historic station that the redevelopment project and related construction of FasTracks rail lines "conservatively could create 10,000 good-paying jobs, not just in Denver but in Aurora, in Northglenn and throughout the metro area."

Rogoff also announced two $40 million grants to RTD, one for the FasTracks Gold Line from Union Station to Wheat Ridge and one for the East line from Union Station to Denver International Airport. The two grants are significant because they signal the federal government's intention to fully fund the two rail lines for nearly $1 billion, RTD spokeswoman Pauletta Tonilas said.

Rogoff said the public-private partnership that will develop the two lines is the only transportation project in the country where private interests have not opted out.

"That shows the strength of this project," he said.

Rogoff also announced a third $40 million grant for RTD's West line from Union Station through Lakewood to the Jefferson County courthouse in Golden. That line is already under construction.

Economic engine

"FasTracks is not only at the center of this city's vision but is also at the heart of President Obama's vision for economic recovery — putting people to work now and improving the quality of life for millions of people," Rogoff said.

Rogoff also said FasTracks could function as an economic development incentive.

"This project will cause many businesses to move to Denver because the companies know their employees will not have to sit in traffic, their employees will be home for dinner and home life," he said.

FasTracks, a $6.8 billion transportation project approved by voters in 2004, will build 122 miles of commuter rail and light rail and 18 miles of bus rapid-transit service, and add 21,000 new parking spaces for transit riders.

Rogoff said FasTracks will become a model across the country as the Obama administration encourages workforce development near transportation centers.

"Too often, the workforce that most depends on public transit becomes gentrified and gets pushed away from the transit centers," he said. "Here, we're making one investment that will benefit people in many ways. Why not have workforce development centers close to the transit stops?"

Work could start this year

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said he is particularly pleased that the mayors of 32 cities and towns support the FasTracks transit project.

"We are the first region in the country to unanimously pass a major transportation project," he said. "This is a reflection of how important Denver considers the suburbs to be and how important they consider Denver to be."

RTD expects to select a team of private partners in June to build and operate the $2.3 billion East and Gold lines. Construction could begin this year.

The East Corridor is a 23-mile electric commuter-rail line that will run between DIA and Union Station.

The Gold Line is an 11-mile electric commuter-rail line that will connect Union Station to Wheat Ridge, passing through northwest Denver, Adams County and Arvada.

The 12.1-mile West Corridor light-rail project is the first of the FasTracks corridors to start construction. The line is scheduled to open to the public in 2013.

Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14345646#ixzz0eraYIbqC