RTD’s Board of Directors voted unanimously in favor of the “hybrid option” to build the FasTracks Northwest Rail Line. This option keeps the Northwest Rail Line to Longmont in the FasTracks plan, but would phase in commuter rail while also implementing a bus rapid transit system. The plan would bring rail to Church Ranch Boulevard in Westminster by 2022 and bus rapid transit (BRT) to the remainder of the line by 2020. RTD says the BRT will help meet the needs of residents in the Northwest area in the short-term while the rail component is built in incremental stages as funding becomes available to fulfill the complete vision of the project.
The first segment of the Northwest Rail Line from Denver Union Station to south Westminster is already funded. The segment from south Westminster to Church Ranch would add another six miles and would be funded from a new 0.4 percent sales tax if RTD has a successfulsales tax election in November. Between the two segments, RTD would complete 12 of the 41 miles of Northwest Rail by 2022, which is 30 percent of the rail line. RTD officials now estimate this plan would bring rail to Longmont between 2028 and 2034.
But would voters approve another tax increase? RTD’s credibility has suffered as cost predictions to complete FasTracks have skyrocketed. This year alone, the capital cost for the FasTracks program has increased from $6.8 billion in 2011 to $7.4 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars (YOE) by opening day (2022).This estimate includes building Northwest Rail to Church Ranch and bus rapid transit (BRT) in the northwest area, but doesn’t include building rail from Church Ranch to Longmont. That final cost will be determined following future negotiations.