August 31, 2011

Feds commit $1B to Denver commuter rail project

The U.S. Department of Transportation signed a $1 billion funding agreement with the Denver Regional Transit District (RTD) for its Eagle P3 commuter rail project.

The 30-mile two-pronged commuter rail project will significantly expand transportation choices in the greater Denver area, create jobs and cut by nearly half the amount of time it now takes to get from downtown Denver to the airport.

RTD is the first transit agency in the nation to successfully pursue a comprehensive public-private partnership, or P3, that encompasses the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of its regional transit projects. The federal funding agreement covers roughly half of the $2 billion cost of the entire project, which is expected to generate roughly 4,700 construction-related jobs in the Denver metro area.

The federal funding agreement clears the way for construction to begin on the western segment of Eagle P3, also known as the Gold Line, which will serve the suburbs of Arvada and Wheat Ridge. The East Line of Eagle P3, which has already begun construction using local funds, will run from Denver's historic Union Station nearly 23 miles east to Denver International Airport and will connect to existing light rail and bus service.

The Eagle P3 project and Denver Union Station's ongoing renovation are part of RTD's far-reaching FasTracks program, a voter-approved, multi-year, multibillion-dollar transit expansion program covering 140 miles of rail and bus corridors that will help Denver to successfully manage growth and compete for business for years to come.

The Federal Transit Administration is the major federal funder through a combination of grants and loans. A consortium of private companies, known as the Denver Transit Partners, is responsible for financing the rest through tax-exempt private-activity bonds issued by RTD and other means.

The entire project is slated for completion in 2016. The new railcars slated for use on the commuter line will be assembled in the U.S. and consist of at least 60 percent U.S.-made components, consistent with the Obama Administration's Buy America requirements.                 

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