May 25, 2019

RTD Releases 2010 FasTracks Financial Evaluation

RTD today released its new annual financial evaluation for the FasTracks program.  Although RTD’s original projections seemed very reasonable at the time and earned the support of multiple independent review bodies, nobody anticipated the explosive construction inflation in the latter 2000s nor the massive recession of the past year, which together created a $2.2 billion shortfall in the program.  For that reason, I don’t blame RTD for the huge FasTracks funding shortfall, but it does create a considerable obstacle to completing construction of the FasTracks light rail system.

Golden had the good fortune to see our light rail line – the West Corridor ending at the Jefferson County building – as the first one in line in the FasTracks program.  Construction is under way, it’s on schedule, and at this point it looks like we’ll have an operating light rail line to Golden in 2013.  It’s always been my view, however, that we very much need to build out the entire FasTracks system across the Denver Metro region.  A strong light rail system across the Denver Metro region is good for Golden and good for all of the Denver area.

When RTD published its annual financial evaluation last year, I and a number of other elected officials across the region expressed serious concerns about what seemed like very optimistic revenue projections.  I am optimistic about economic recovery, but adopting a financial plan for RTD that depends on a high rate of economic growth and sizable infusions of new federal money, which it did last year, seems very hazardous to me.  I am pleased to see that this newest financial report is more conservative, which means that the financial plans are probably more realistic.

The key conclusions of their new report:

  • The cost to build FasTracks by 2017 has decreased from $6.9 billion to $6.5 billion.
  • The projected revenues for FasTracks through 2035 have decreased from $9.1 billion to $7.8 billion because RTD is now using a more conservative method for making these projections.
  • The result: the funding gap for completing construction by 2017 has grown from $2.2 billion to $2.4 billion.

Based on all of this, RTD outlined four basic options for completing the entire FasTracks system.

  1. Complete by 2017: Assuming a successful election in 2010 that increases sales and use tax by 0.4% (under the high, medium and low sales tax growth scenarios).
  2. Complete by 2019: Assuming an election in 2012 that increases sales and use tax by 0.4% (but the two-year delay in the additional sales tax revenues adds $200 million in costs).
  3. Complete by 2025: Assuming a successful election in 2010 that increases sales and use tax by 0.4%, but no federal funding for the East and Gold Line corridors.
  4. Completed after 2035: Assuming no additional revenues.

What does this mean for Golden?  Our light rail line should remain on track and on time, but RTD will be asking us and everyone else across the Denver region to support an additional sales tax to help meet the funding gap so that they can build out the entire system during our lifetimes.  I’ll keep you posted as their plans unfold.

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  1. […] RTD Releases 2010 FasTracks Financial Evaluation (January 6, 2010) […]