Something to cheer at RTD

Bill Christopher, Crosscurrents
Posted

It is important to look for that silver lining in all situations regardless how dismal things might appear to be.

That is true in sports, the snail’s pace of improvement in the U.S. economy or our own personal lives. Certainly it applies to the Regional Transportation District and its struggles as well.

While the board of directors seems to have its troubles, quarrels and disagreements, the organization is marching ahead making progress.

Hope rides on North Metro line

The latest good news should make city officials, developers, property owners and riders along the North Metro line pleased to learn that there is hope for construction of the commuter line from Union Station to 72nd Avenue.

An unsolicited proposal led by Graham Contracting Limited was submitted in late February to RTD. This action now triggers RTD to evaluate the merits and feasibility of Graham’s proposal. If found to be viable, RTD will solicit proposals via its competitive procurement process. This is a jump start over RTD’s earlier timetable to release a request for proposals later this year.

Competitive positioning

The entire North Metro electric commuter rail line is 18.4 miles. The most expensive segment due to bridge work is from Union Station to 72nd. If a viable proposal can accomplish this portion of the North Metro line, it will position RTD to be in a competitive position in competing for Federal Transit Administration New Starts grant funding for the balance of the line over the next few years. The entire line will serve Denver, unincorporated Adams County, Commerce City, Northglenn and Thornton.

Must be a win-win

It is especially exciting to see the private sector come forward and offer an unsolicited proposal. This same approach worked on the I-225 commuter line in Aurora. Kiewit Infrastructure Co. submitted an unsolicited proposal that led to RTD soliciting proposals. Kiewit won the contract and the I-225 line will be open for business in 2016.

Such private sector proposals have to be a win-win situation or RTD should not jump too quickly. The private sector has the ability to cut costs, reduce timelines and deliver a quality product.

Hopefully, the initial segment of the North Metro line will be deemed to be viable under the above process and construction work can start yet this year.

What about NW Rail corridor?

That leaves the black sheep of the six new FasTracks commuter lines. I wish the Easter Bunny would have produced a private sector proposal for the Northwest Rail Corridor from south Westminster to Longmont. But alas, all he left were some colored eggs and jelly beans.

We are thankful for the first segment of the NW Rail line that is under way from Union Station to 71st Avenue at approximately Irving Street. This was a part of the Eagle P-3 one billion dollar project with the East Corridor and the Gold Line.

However, we wait for the decision on the remainder of the NW commuter rail line while RTD commissions an expensive and time-consuming study on all the options for this corridor.

Bill Christopher is former city manager of Westminster and used to represent District J on the RTD board of directors.