DALLAS — Denver’s Regional Transportation District will decide by the end of the month whether to proceed with a $350 million light-rail line through the suburb of Aurora after winning positive comments at a public hearing this week.
The 10.5-mile line would be part of the RTD’s $4.7 billion FasTracks system that is under construction.
The Aurora segment along Interstate 225 would connect several major employment centers, including Aurora City Center and the new Anschutz medical campus at the former Fitzsimons Army Hospital.
At a public hearing in Aurora on Tuesday, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan called construction of the line an issue that will affect the entire metro area.
The rail line would be a public-private partnership like that of the Eagle P3 commuter rail line that is under construction between Denver International Airport and downtown Denver’s Union Station. The RTD’s board accepted a bid from Kiewit Infrastructure on June 3 to build the Aurora line by November 2015. Kiewit was one of two qualified bidders for the project.
After this week’s public hearing, a committee of the board will vote July 17 on whether to proceed with the project. The full board is scheduled to vote July 24.
Public support for the FasTracks system is a critical element because the RTD board needs an increase in its sales tax to complete the project anywhere close to its original 2017 target. The board has continued to delay plans to put the tax increase on the ballot because of economic weakness and antagonism from anti-government Tea Party conservatives.
In April, the RTD decided not to place the tax issue on the November presidential ballot.
“The RTD board realizes that while economic conditions are slowly but steadily improving in the Denver metro area, the timing is not right for a 2012 ballot initiative,” said RTD board chair Lee Kemp after the decision. “We remain committed to continuing to work with our regional partners to complete FasTracks sooner rather than later. Signs of progress will continue to take shape around the region.”
Voters in the Denver area approved the original 0.4% sales tax increase to finance the $4.7 billion FasTracks system in 2004. FasTracks was designed to add 122 miles of commuter rail and light rail, 18 miles of bus rapid transit service and 21,000 new parking spaces to RTD’s existing light-rail and bus system.