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RTD Abandons Request For Sales Tax Increase [Updated]

The RTD Board of Governors vote puts a hybrid/BRT option on hold for the Northwest Corridor
Jim Hill
The RTD Board of Governors vote puts a hybrid/BRT option on hold for the Northwest Corridor

The Regional Transportation District Board of Governors voted Tuesday night not to ask for a .04% sales tax increase this November to fund FasTracks, effectively ending movement on a hybrid “rail/bus rapid transit” expansion of the system from Denver to Longmont.

The Denver Post reports all 12 members of the board voted to nix the tax hike request.

RTD Spokeswoman Paulette Tonilas says the vote shows the board wants to step back and explore how to better define transportation options in the Northwest Corridor.

The cost to complete the Northwest expansion was originally estimated to be $895 million. However, skyrocketing material costs shot that price tag to over a billion dollars.

Tonilas says commuter rail to Longmont, which will be the final component of FasTracks, will not be 12 years out, but more likely 30.

“Currently we are saying the last component will not be complete until 2042 or later if we don’t get another sales tax increase.” 

Earlier this year, an RTD planning committee tentatively approved a cost effective measure to modify the original Northwest expansion to phase in Bus Rapid Transit [.pdf] along with commuter rail service, addressing the growing transportation needs in the area. However, Tonilas says approval of that modification hinged on the full board bringing the sales tax question to voters.

“To do that hybrid option as we intend, it would need a vote of the people to change the plan for the Northwest area. So we cannot move forward with that plan without an approval by the voters. It doesn’t mean we can’t look at better identifying bus rapid transit in the northwest, we can continue to do some evaluation on that. But we’re not able to move on that without a positive vote by the people,” Tonilas says.

The board has not set a firm date for when or if it will ask voters for the .04% sales tax increase.

In a statement [.pdf] released by RTD Tuesday night, the focus of the board will be to explore and cultivate  alternative funding options including public/private partnerships and grants to complete the remaining sections of FasTracks before 2042.

Update 1:10 pm: KUNC's Nathan Heffel has posted an audio excerpt of his interview with State Representative Jonathan Singer from District 11. Singer represents areas including north Boulder and west Longmont, two cities impacted by future FasTracks expansion. Representative Singer speaks about Tuesday's RTD vote, as well as his views on completing the Northwest Corridor to Longmont. 

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