Residents, officials push for transit line

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Adams County residents and local officials remain skeptical of RTD’s continued promises to finally kick off construction on the North Metro Line.

A project update provided by Regional Transportation District officials during a Feb. 9 town hall meeting at the Margaret Carpenter Recreation Center was met with circumspection from about 40 county residents who say they are still waiting to see the fruits of their tax dollars.

“I’m sure you guys really aren’t too interested in what’s happening elsewhere — you care about the line that is coming here — and I know you feel like you’re the last ones to get what you voted for a while ago,” said RTD’s North Metro Rail Line Project Manager Jane Donovan as audience members shouted, “yes” in agreement. “We have been making huge investments in the North Metro region to get it here. There is a lot of stuff that has to go on behind the scenes in order for us to come out here and build the rail.”

Donovan said $119 million of the $473 million committed to the North Metro Line was used to purchase rights-of-way for parts of the line that would take commuters as far as State Highway 7 and East 167th Avenue.

Donovan also highlighted RTD’s recent efforts to begin allocating about $277 million to fund unfinished short-term FasTracks projects by 2017, including the U.S. 36 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project and the North Metro Line up to 72nd Avenue.

She said RTD is then planning to apply for federal funds to help complete last leg of the line, which is estimated to cost about $40 million per mile to build. The first segment of the North Metro Line from Denver Union Station to 72nd Avenue is estimated to cost about $60 million per mile to build.

“I make personal bets at night when I’m out with my friends that I’m betting them $100 that we’ll have this line here by 2020,” Donovan said. “That’s just me and I’m certainly committed to getting that done, because I want to see it and I know the regional directors want to see it.”

RTD District K Director Paul Solano said the North Metro Line is important because many Adams County citizens either do not own a car or rely heavily on public transportation.

“We all have needs, but they’re all tied to transportation — how we get our children to school and how we go to and come back home from work,” Solano said. “There’s a lot of issues and we’re trying to move ahead.”

Thornton Ward 3 City Councilwoman Lynne Fox said she wants RTD to ensure that no other funds allocated for the North Metro Line are diverted to other FasTrack projects.

“I know that you will find more money over the years and we don’t want to see the Southeast Rail Line extension built before we get real rail here in Thornton,” Fox said. “Quite frankly, we feel like there’s enough rail in the south part of Denver to serve everyone there.”

THE NORTH METRO LINE BY THE NUMBERS:

$119 million - Purchasing the right of way for the North Metro Line

$20 million - Completing the federally mandated North Metro Line Final Environmental Impact Statement from 2006 to 2011

$134 million - Building the North Metro Line segment from Denver Union to the National Western Stock Show Stations

$200 million - Completing the first segment of the North Metro Line from the Denver Stock Show to 72nd Avenue