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Stories & news items from our Content Partners: Northern Colorado Business Report, Boulder County Business Report, Colorado Public Television, The Colorado Statesmen, and Education News Colorado.

Agreement Inked on Long-Awaited FoCo Transit Project

The city of Fort Collins and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway recently signed an agreement that will allow the long-awaited Mason Corridor Project to get underway this summer in Fort Collins.  KUNC’s Erin O’Toole talks with Northern Colorado Business Report publisher Jeff Nuttall about the impact of the project.

O’Toole: So Jeff, what is the Mason Corridor Project essentially? And what will it do for Fort Collins?

Nuttall:  Erin, the Mason Corridor Project is a five-mile stretch of roadway in Fort Collins between Maple Street on the north and Harmony Road on the south that parallels the Burlington Northern railroad tracks. The plan is to build a concrete bus track just east of the railroad tracks where rapid transit buses will run, and that’s what set this agreement in motion. It’s expected that the Mason Express — or MAX — bus system will help facilitate the establishment of new businesses along the route - and hopefully provide some serious economic stimulus for the city.

O’Toole: So how much will this new bus system cost?

Nuttall:  The total price tag is $82 million, with about $66 million coming from the Federal Transit administration. CDOT’s also kicking in about $11 million, along with $600,000 from the Downtown Development Authority.  And Colorado State University is contributing some land to the project as well. So the city of Fort Collins is actually going to get a new bus system and a revamped transportation corridor for a real bargain, just because they jumped in on stimulus dollars early.

O’Toole:  Not a bad deal!  What will these MAX buses look like?

Nuttall:  They’re pretty cool, actually, very modern-looking and 60 feet long. They’re also articulated, which means they have an accordion-like connection in the middle that makes it easier for them to negotiate turns.  

O’Toole:  What did the city have to do in order to get Burlington Northern to agree to share the rail corridor?

Nuttall:  The first thing that needed to be done was for the city to agree to adopt and strictly enforce a no-trespassing ordinance with respect to crossing the tracks at places other than designated rail crossings. That was becoming a real safety issue for the railroad. The other thing the city agreed to do was pay the railroad $3.9 million for an easement, and that was to build the bus guideway next to the tracks.        

O’Toole: So what does Fort Collins get besides a new bus system and safer rail movement through the city?  What other benefits are we talking about?

Nuttall:  The city’s engineer estimates there will be about $58 million in construction contracts to let for the Mason Corridor Project, and some of that will likely go to local companies. Burlington Northern will be doing a fair amount of work on its tracks at the same time, again hiring some local folks to help do that. And there’s the spinoff economic impact of workers eating at local restaurants, shopping at local shops and that kind of thing.

O’Toole: Anything else about the project we should know?

Nuttall: Yes - the creation of the Mason Corridor and bus system is considered fundamental to the development of Fort Collins’ midtown area, which is in need of some revitalization. It’s estimated the project will help create 2,800 new housing units, millions in property tax revenue and new economic development in the midtown area, with the Ft. Collins Foothills Mall being the biggest part of that midtown project.

O’Toole: What’s the timeframe for the project?

Nuttall:  Some work is set to begin this summer to set the stage for the major construction phase, which will be 2012-13.  All in all, that will include building 12 new boarding stations along the MAX route and a new South Transit Center. The completion date for the entire project is set for December 2013.

Jeff Nuttall is publisher of the Northern Colorado Business Report

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
Northern Colorado Business Report publisher Jeff Nuttall helped establish the business journal in 1995 and its expansion to a biweekly format in 1999. Jeff is involved with numerous community activities in Ft. Collins. He discusses regional business and economic issues impacting northern Colorado every other Thursday at 5:35 and 7:35 during KUNC’s Morning Edition.