Jones, RTD Chiefs Tangle Over NW Rail Delays

August 10, 2012 

(Denver) – Rep. Matt Jones (D-Louisville) challenged the Regional Transportation District’s top brass today to adjust its priorities, saying its latest proposal to further delay construction of a rail line to Louisville and Longmont was “a gross inequity.”

In a spirited exchange with RTD general manager Phil Washington and RTD chairman Lee Kemp, who were testifying at the Capitol to the joint Transportation Legislation Review Committee, Rep. Jones noted that RTD’s FasTracks system includes two southern lines completed, two western lines and two eastern lines under construction, and “a fifth of a line” to the north. He was referring to the scheduled 2016 completion of the Northwest Line only as far as the southern part of Westminster. It is supposed to go to Longmont.

“People are enormously frustrated up north,” Rep. Jones said. “We think we’re paying for something we’re not getting.”

“We’ve been team players,” Rep. Jones said, referring to the northern communities’ acquiescence to other RTD construction projects. “And what do we get? One fifth of a line.”

Rep. Jones noted that buildout of the Northwest Line to Longmont is now scheduled for 2044. “People will be living on the moon by then,” he said.

He urged Washington and Kemp to complete the Northwest Line before RTD spends nearly $400 million on short extensions to the Southwest and Southeast Lines. “Be fair about this,” he said.

“Putting extras down south and eating up capacity,” he added, “is not OK.”

Washington responded that reprioritizing RTD’s capital construction projects depended on “the leveraging of funding, private-sector opportunities and federal funding.” RTD has spent or pledged all of its capital fund and has nearly exhausted its bonding capacity.

Rep. Jones noted that one of RTD’s guiding principles for FasTracks is to “deliver key investments in all corridors.”

“That ain’t done until there’s a rail line to Longmont,” he said. “We helped pass the tax that made this possible, and we’re getting the short end of the stick.”

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