Sun January 27, 2013

RTD Refinancing Opens New Possibilities For Rail To Longmont

The Regional Transportation District hopes low interest rates and debt refinancing will allow accelerated construction of its FasTracks North Metro Line.

Those expected savings would allow completion of the line to 72nd Ave. in Commerce City sooner than RTD had expected.

The North Metro Line, once fully completed, will extend from Denver’s Union Station north to Highway 7 in Adams County.  It also creates other options for bringing commuter rail to Longmont before 2044.

Currently, Longmont is at the end of the proposed Northwest Rail Line which will travel north from Denver through Louisville and Boulder. RTD has said with current funding, the Northwest Rail Line will be completed to Longmont by 2044 at the earliest.

RTD Spokesman Scott Reed says the refinancing the agency is looking at now for the North Metro Line could create a kind of domino effect for future FasTracks projects. “This step forward can trigger a whole lot of improvements for the FasTracks program and we think it’s a very innovative approach because of the Internal Savings Account that we have identified.”

Refinancing Brings Possibilities For Longmont

With the completed North Metro Line, Reed says with additional federal funds (and if the option was deemed feasible), Longmont could be removed from the Northwest Rail Line and added to an extended North Metro Rail Line.

“If everything falls into place as we think it will, we likely will see the North Metro Line built then access federal funds that will extend to the end of line.”

Reed admits that a lot of things must happen before a change of that magnitude could take place, including the completion of a $2 million Northwest Area Mobility Study which will explore multiple transportation options for the Northwest quadrant of the Front Range.

“We have had additional information from the railroads showing that the [Northwest Rail] line is going to be around $1.7 to $2 billion to construct. And, given the amount of ridership, we want to take a look at other ways that we can provide better mobility at a more affordable price.”

North Metro Line Extension To Be Subject Of Study

Along with a North Metro Line extension, other options explored could include line segmentation, the addition of Bus Rapid Transit, or augmented service in other locations. Any substantial changes would have to be approved by voters.

Phil Greenwald, transportation planner for the City of Longmont says the city favors a North Metro Line extension option and adds its FasTracks policy statement requests it. Greenwald says the more direct route from Denver to Longmont also opens up other areas in Northern Colorado to commuter rail.

“There’s a north I-25 EIS (Environmental Impact Study) [.pdf] that was done by CDOT that shows how the rail could come up from the North Metro Line and link into Longmont, Berthoud, Loveland and Fort Collins. It provides the next link into Northern Colorado.”

RTD’s Reed says while nothing has been set in stone, the North Metro Line extension to Longmont is one of many options that will be explored when the Northwest Area Mobility Study begins in about a month.