January 21, 2020

Golden Companies Win Awards, and a FasTracks Train Test on the West Corridor

RTD photo.

Mayor Sloan wrote about a few things of interest in her newsletter on Friday:

  • Kudos to ERA and PharmaJet, two Golden-based companies that were recognized with Industry Awards by the Jefferson County Economic Development Commission.
  • The Golden Public Library’s One Book, One Golden program featuring the Craig Barnes book “Growing Up True: Lessons of a Western Boyhood.”
  • A shout-out to city staff by 3GL.
  • The first test run of a light rail train car on the West Corridor.

Check out Marjorie’s website for the full update (and photos of the light rail car!).

Radio Golden is Live

Today we launched Radio Golden, an every-other-week-or-so podcast on news and politics here in Golden and Jeffco. For now, you can download the mp3 files from the RadioGolden.net website, or you can listen to them directly on the site. We are setting up the podcast through iTunes, as well, so you’ll be able to subscribe through iTunes to the Radio Golden podcast so that it downloads automatically into iTunes every time we post a new edition.

Episode #1:

  • Hosts Matt Burde, Pamela Gould, and Jacob Smith offer updates and commentary on Golden Valley and Golden City Council news, including the Golden light rail station and the South Neighborhoods Plan, Jeffco’s open space citizen survey, and a rundown on other new highlights of the past few weeks.
  • Upcoming opportunities to get involved in Golden.
  • A chat with Mayor Marjorie Sloan about City Council’s priorities and challenges for 2012.
  • Community Chatter … other news that folks are excited about.

You’ll also find the Episode #1 Extended Interview on the site, a longer interview with Mayor Sloan about the Council’s priorities and challenges.

Check it out and share your thoughts …

Keeping “Golden” in Our New Light Rail Station Name

The Jeffco end-of-line station (RTD photo).

I come across a lot of head-scratchers, but this one stands out. The Jefferson County Commissioners are insisting on naming the new light rail station “Jefferson County Government Center,” and are refusing to discuss any possible alternatives. I’m not a marketing person, but it seems to me that “government center” just isn’t a very effective marketing approach, and that anyone using the light rail station to get to the Jeffco campus will easily figure out which line and which stop they need, regardless of what the station name is. But the station serves much more than just the Taj; it also serves Colorado School of Mines, MillerCoors, downtown Golden, other Golden neighborhoods, and other portions of unincorporated Jefferson County. The station name ought to be much more focused on helping to draw visitors to all of those other locations.

The RTD board will make the final decision on May 17, and the RTD staff is recommending “Jefferson County Government Center – Golden Station.” It’s not a great name, but it is a lot better than the county’s choice and at least it is much more fair to Golden (and Golden has contributed a great deal to the project). The Golden City Council sent a letter to the RTD Board expressing our support for their staff recommendation.

What can you do? First, send an email to Golden’s two RTD board representatives, Lorraine Anderson (lorraine.anderson@rtd-denver.com) and Matt Cohen (matt.cohen@rtd-denver.com). Lorraine (who represents most of Golden) told me she is planning to support the county’s proposal (i.e., I believe she opposes including “Golden” in the name). Matt (who represents a small portion of southern Golden) is supporting the staff recommendation (i.e., including “Golden”). Second, send an email to the county commissioners (fgriffin@jeffco.us, drosier@jeffco.us, jodom@jeffco.us).

Please be polite and respectful, but you can clearly express your preference and ask that they think about the long-term benefit to everyone if we use a name that includes Golden, in addition to the simple issue of fairness.

Finally, if you are able, you can attend the RTD board meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17. I believe the meeting is at the RTD building in LoDo (1600 Blake St. right next to the Market Street Station).

Golden Secures Federal Funding: Pedestrian Bridge Over U.S. 6 and Golden’s New Community Bus

Looking across U.S. 6 at the new under-construction light rail station from the Golden Ridge side.

The construction site at the Jefferson County building: the new light rail line and station.

Some really terrific news that would have been easy to miss during the Indian Gulch Fire last week: Golden secured federal funding for two extremely important community projects. The first of those is our new Golden community bus. We’ve been working for a couple of years now on a plan to launch a new circulator bus in Golden. Our highest priority is to connect the light rail station at the Taj with downtown Golden, but our vision is that over time we’ll be able to connect all of our neighborhoods, our schools, and our community facilities like the Community Center. This federal funding – $1,237,000 – is incredibly helpful, and we’ll be able to pool it with funding from RTD, Colorado School of Mines, and the city to operate the bus service for a three-year trial period starting in 2013 when the light rail opens.

We also secured $1,220,000 in federal funding for a new pedestrian bridge over U.S. 6 at the new light rail station. In other words, if you live in Golden Ridge, Golden Terrace. Stonebridge, Eagle Ridge, Heritage Dells, or anywhere else near Heritage Road, you will be able to walk or bike to the new light rail station without having to cross U.S. 6. That will make your journey much safer, quicker, and more pleasant. You’ll be able to easily walk to the light rail station and catch the train to work, the ballgame, or whatever else you might head into Denver for. You can ride your bike, lock it at the station, ride the light rail, and then grab your bike when you return. Or, as some Heritage Dells folks I met with this morning pointed out, you can ride your bike into Denver (downhill) and catch the light rail back to Golden (uphill). We’ll match the federal funding with $750,000 from RTD and $300,000 from the city.

The funding is allocated through the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG). Councilor Marjorie Sloan and I represent Golden at DRCOG, and we’ve been working hard for months, along with city staff, to include the dollars for our two projects in this round of funding allocations. I’m really pleased we were able to pull it of.

City Council Adopts 2011 Priorities

On Thursday night City Council formally adopted priorities for 2011.  This is generally a continuation of the priorities we established last year, but it’s worth formally identifying them to help us stay focused and help keep the community informed about what we are focused on.

We adopted five major priorities:

1) Protecting the city’s financial health and sustaining the community’s economic vitality.

2) Supporting and strengthening our neighborhoods (“The Year of the Neighborhood”), including implementing our new neighborhood grant program, completing pending neighborhood plans, and considering all of the policy recommendations in the adopted ones.

3) Maintaining our aggressive efforts to keep the beltway out of Golden and working to protect Golden from the impacts of growing regional through the Golden Plan or similar improvements.

4) Updating the Comprehensive Plan and revamping/updating the land use process to give neighborhoods a stronger voice in shaping their own future and to make the process less adversarial and combative.

5) Revisiting and updating the city’s long-term streets plan.

Other 2011 priorities include:

1) Making sure Golden is ready for light rail in 2013, including our own community bus.

2) Adopting a preliminary strategic transportation plan (in advance of preparing a thorough one in 2012).

3) Finalize our new performance evaluation system for the city and city manager, including performance metrics

4) Review and update the long-term plans for the city’s major recreational facilities.

5) Update the city’s economic development tools, structures, and strategies. This may extend into 2012.

6) Support the Quiznos Pro Challenge Professional Bicycle Race.

And some additional 2011 projects:

1) CSM Master Plan (although the timing is up to Colorado School of Mines).

2) Clear Creek Master Plan.

3) Evaluate and consider sewer/waterline insurance. DONE – Council decided to educate community members about the value of having this insurance but not to enter into a special agreement with any specific insurance providers.

4) Consider adjusting the cost of special use permits for chickens. DONE – Council reduced the special use permit fee for keeping up to six hens.

5) Evaluate and potentially update the strategy for managing amplified outdoor music.

6) Evaluate and consider updating traffic fine schedule.

7) Evaluate and consider updating leash laws.

8) Initiate long-term city financial health evaluation.

9) Evaluate and update medical marijuana regulations.

10) Update noise mitigation priorities.

11) Complete the City of Golden web site revamp.

12) Further development, testing, and training on the new Emergency Operations Plan (primarily staff).

13) Plan for major software updates (finance, planning, police, fire, courts) (primarily

14) Major public works projects: South Reservoir and office building reconstruction (primarily staff).

15) East Downtown Vision and Plan (potentially).

West Corridor and FasTracks Update

West Corridor bridge over 6th Avenue at Indiana (RTD Photo)

RTD and some of the polling folks involved with FasTracks provided an in-depth briefing yesterday morning at the Metro Mayors Caucus meeting.  The FasTracks construction update is very encouraging: 48 miles of new rail lines now under construction, 8 projects under way, and the West Corridor to Golden is 75% complete.


The update on the latest public opinion research is even more interesting.  Some key findings:

  1. Mass transit and FasTracks remain very popular with voters.
  2. Voters really seem to get the value of a full buildout of FasTracks system, including the DIA line.  This is true even among people who themselves aren’t frequent travelers and won’t themselves use FasTracks.
  3. Voters blame the FasTracks budget challenges on the economy; they don’t blame RTD.
  4. Public support for a tax increase to complete the FasTracks buildout increased as the size of the potential tax increase grew.  In other words support for a 4/10 of a penny increase in the FasTracks tax was substantially greater than support for a 3/10 of a penny increase, which was itself substantially more than support for 2/10, and so on.  In fact, support for no tax increase was about 35% (and opposition to not increasing the tax was about 65%).  With respect to FasTracks, Denver Metro voters really value time (the length of time before the system is built out), even more than money (the amount of the tax increase).

RTD will make a decision soon about how much of a tax increase they will ask the voters to approve to complete buildout of the FasTracks system, so expect to see a lot of media coverage over the next couple of months.

The Denver Post has a story on that meeting.  This is one of those where the story isn’t quite accurate (MMC actually didn’t make a decision because we act on consensus and clearly didn’t have that, especially with the Littleton mayor), but the characterization of the gist was probably fair (most of the mayors expressed support for 4% because it means the system gets built out so much quicker and because voter support seems so much higher with that proposal than with lower proposals).

Bridge Project Road Closures: 7th Place over Tucker Gulch and 6th Ave. at Indiana

All westbound lanes of 6th Ave. on either side of Indiana St. are scheduled to close starting at 9:00 p.m. this Thursday night (May 13) and remain closed until 5:30 a.m. on Friday morning (May 14). They will just route traffic off at the exit and back on to 6th using the on-ramp. This closure will allow them to set a section of girders on the Indiana St. FasTracks bridge.

Here in town, we had to close to eastbound traffic the bridge on 7th Place over Tucker Gulch (next to the Highway 58 bridge over Ford St.). When our road contractor started working on the bridge, they discovered significant problems with the underlying bridge structure itself. The repair will be pretty extensive but the result will be good road and a bridge that should last for many more years. You can still access the neighborhood from the Boyd St. exist off of Highway 58 and by detouring over and around on Ptarmigan. We expect the project to take three to four weeks.

West Corridor Light Rail Construction Update

The latest update from RTD on West Corridor light rail construction between the Taj and the Federal Center:

  • Work on walls and drainage continues near I-70.
  • Light rail bridge construction (pouring piers, footing work, and deck pours) is taking place on both sides of Indiana Street at 6th Avenue. Crews have stripped the wood forms from the north side of the bridge to expose the concrete setting of the bridge and begin the post-tensioning process between two spans of the bridge.  The wood forms will be placed on the south side to begin pouring there. The 6th Avenue eastbound on-ramp from Indiana will close March 16, 17 and 18 during nighttime hours.
  • Crews continue working on the bridge over Colfax.  They anticipate pouring the deck of the bridge within the next two weeks.
  • Ulysses Street in Golden is closed from 6th Avenue north to Mt. Vernon Road to raise the street and install retaining walls. Improvements to the Lena Gulch on Ulysses at 6th Avenue will be winding down soon.  Retaining wall construction could begin within the next few weeks.
  • Work at the Jefferson County Government Center including excavation and retaining wall construction has begun. The current bike path has been detoured down Johnson Road to Jefferson County Parkway.
  • Wall construction on the south side of 6th Avenue west of Simms/Union is near completion.  Excavation and wall construction on the north side of 6th Avenue from Indiana to Colfax is on-going.
  • Construction of the tunnel under Simms/Union will begin this week with the removal of the center median from 4th Avenue to 6th Avenue.  Once the median has been removed, crews will work nighttime hours to build the bridge support under the roadway.

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.

A Conservative Perspective on Transit

As FasTracks sorts through its financial challenges and as FasTracks lines get built out (including our own West Corridor line) over the next few years, I suspect we’ll see sustained coverage of the political fights over transit in the Denver region.  Of course those fights will heat up considerably when RTD asks the voters for additional sales tax to complete the buildout of the system, as I expect they’ll do in 2010.

I recently came across this interesting article about Paul Weyrich (a key conservative thinker and writer and a co-founder of the Heritage Foundation) and his views on mass transit.  His point in a nutshell: the “conservative” arguments against transit seem to be more about an ideological libertarian anti-transit view than based in either real world facts or mainstream conservative doctrine. [NOTE: The original link didn’t work.  I’ve updated it and it seems to work fine now.]

It’s refreshing to recall that support for FasTracks was decidedly bipartisan, and in fact it would not have passed without the uncommon alliance between the business community, local governments, and the environmental community.  And same sort of broad bipartisan support for FasTracks is evident at the Metro Mayors Caucus (composed of all the mayors in the Denver Metro region) and at the Denver Regional Council of Governments (made up of all the cities and counties in the region), Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike.  The politics have become a lot more complicated since that first FasTracks vote, and I don’t know if the coalitions will hold as they did last time, but I’ve been very encouraged that the coalition fissures have been about mechanics and equity issues, not ideology.