9:46am

Thu October 10, 2013
Business Report

Study Presents Options For Northwest Rail Line

It’s been nine years since voters approved the FasTracks initiative to create 122 miles of new light rail and commuter rail in the Denver metro area. But in the Northwest Corridor, which includes Boulder and Broomfield counties, not a single mile of rail has yet been built.

Erin O'Toole discusses the delay of FasTrack's Northwest Rail Line with BCBR publisher Chris Wood for Morning Edition.

The reasons for the delay aren’t clear. The Boulder area has some of the highest ridership of the Regional Transportation District, and voters overwhelmingly supported the ballot measure. But two years ago, RTD officials announced that the Northwest line wouldn’t be completed for at least 30 years.

RTD, along with communities in the area, commissioned a study last year to try to shorten that time frame. One of the possible options includes expanding bus rapid transit through the Northwest area. No matter what RTD officials choose, completing the line will be far more expensive than initial estimates, says Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood.

"One of the options is a new statewide transportation ballot measure that would be on the 2014 ballot," says Wood. "The measure would call for a 7/10-cent tax that would generate $100 million to $120 million annually for RTD."

Wood notes that RTD last year opted not to put a FasTracks-specific measure on the ballot. He says officials think a broader tax, which would fund other transportation projects as well, might stand a better chance.

While the original estimate for the Northwest Rail Line came in at $894 million, the costs today add up to about $1.4 billion. That includes $681 million for the Westminster-to-Broomfield line, and $200 - $300 million for each of the final three segments.

A bus rapid-transit system would cost about $300 million, while another option -- extending the North Metro line up I-25 to Longmont -- would cost up to $834 million.

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