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Feds provide FasTracks with billion-dollar assist

ARVADA — Top federal transportation officials signed a commitment Wednesday to provide $1 billion for key RTD FasTracks train lines, and some participants at the signing ceremony took up the challenge of addressing FasTracks' $2.5 billion funding gap.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood extolled the project — an RTD-led public-private partnership known as Eagle.

"This project we are funding will be a model for the country and maybe for the world," LaHood said.

Federal Transit Administration chief Peter Rogoff, who also spoke at the ceremony, said the Regional Transportation District is the only transit agency in the country to have such a public-private venture still active under a program originated by the FTA.

"When it comes to private-sector involvement in transportation, Denver is the model," Rogoff said, noting private investment in the Eagle partnership totals "hundreds of millions" of dollars.

The project includes the $1.1 billion East Corridor train to Denver International Airport, the $416 million Gold Line commuter train to Arvada/Wheat Ridge and a short segment of the Northwest train line to south Westminster. All are due for completion by 2016.

LaHood and other speakers cited the regional unity that produced a successful FasTracks tax vote in 2004 to pay for six new train lines and other transit improvements. Since that vote, reduced sales-tax forecasts have helped put RTD about $2.5 billion short of what is needed to build the entire project.

That has left trains — including the North Metro line to Adams County, the Interstate 225 light-rail line in Aurora and the extension of the Northwest line to Boulder/ Longmont — severely underfunded and in danger of being shelved for up to three decades.

Asked after the signing ceremony whether the FTA might financially support the unfunded lines, LaHood said: "What you see here today is a level of support, enthusiasm and energy for a project that is going to happen, that is going to be finished, and I have no doubt . . . the gap will be closed."

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told the crowd that he supports a vote on a sales-tax increase in November 2012 to finish FasTracks.

Doubling the current 0.4 percent FasTracks tax would get the entire project built by 2020, according to RTD.

Louisville Mayor Chuck Sisk was at the ceremony seeking just such a commitment to finish FasTracks.

The Northwest train will serve Louisville if another $895 million can be found to extend the line beyond south Westminster.

"I want to see RTD make a commitment to the lines that are not funded right now," Sisk said. "We have to know we're going to get a line."

Jeffrey Leib: 303-954-1645 or

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