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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.

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.

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.
Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood helped create the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995. He previously served as managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. Chris discusses regional business and economic issues in Boulder County every other Thursday at 5:35 and 7:35 during Morning Edition.
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