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Letter to the editor: Moving forward with FasTracks

"I agree with several RTD directors and Commuting Solutions that we need another funding source. Our best chance for success would be to go with a working partnership between Front Range Passenger Rail, Amtrak and RTD."
2021_02_09_LL_rtd_rail
"RTD A Line train nearing station stop"

There have been several articles and conversations about RTD, FasTracks and the Northwest Corridor Peak Service to Longmont. For me, this is an exciting conversation because of the synergy behind it.

Many of the residents have expressed the desire to get out of the FasTracks portion of the RTD tax and ask for our 60 million tax dollars to be returned. I certainly understand and share that frustration. Frankly, I’m also angry.

When I ran for a city council seat in 2016, one of my platform promises was to work to bring the RTD FasTracks rail to Longmont. After five years of working with our staff, our mayor, RTD Director Judy Lubow; networking with transportation organizations and Front Range Passenger Rail; and meetings with BNSF, investors and Governor Polis, we now have the same vision, speaking with one voice to move in the same direction. This is the synergy we have been working for.

Rail is a great idea for Longmont and leads to the economic development along the corridor that is key to many of our growth opportunities. Historically, rail terminals and corridors have attracted commercial development at a much faster rate than bus terminals. The council’s work plan for a vision of a performing arts center and satellite college campus must rely on a stable mass transit option that is not hampered by changing bus routes, road work or traffic congestion.

Environmentally, rail is a good option for mass transportation. The state and the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) have set target dates for reducing greenhouse gases (ghg) which negatively affect our ozone layer. Relying on electronic vehicles (EVs) for the reduction is a good start, but it is not enough. 

The reluctance of Coloradoans to pass a transportation tax or increase the gas tax leaves the state with few funding sources to build and maintain our road infrastructure. How do we fund a rail project that RTD cannot afford?  I agree with several RTD directors and Commuting Solutions that we need another funding source. 

Our best chance for success would be to go with a working partnership between Front Range Passenger Rail (FRPR), Amtrak and RTD. The work that FRPR has been doing with the Southwest Chief line and Amtrak to build rail along Interstate 25 from Pueblo to Fort Collins has gained traction. This line will go through Longmont, stopping at our First Avenue and Main station. FRPR and Amtrak are looking at the Northwest Corridor Peak Service as the link to Denver’s Union Station. 

Funding for Amtrak to partner with FRPR for capital and operational costs must come from the federal level. Two transportation bills are in the process of being drafted. With the support of leaders on both the federal and state levels, it is a good possibility that funding will be available for a working partnership to finish our rail project. 

This funding and collaboration opportunity may relieve RTD of some of the capital and operational costs for the northwest corridor.

As an elected official, I work for the residents of Longmont. When we work together, much can be accomplished. Your support in asking our congressional and state leaders to fund Amtrak would be helpful. 

Thank you for your support through this long process.

(Note: This article is my stated opinion and does not necessarily reflect that of other city council members.)

 

Joan Peck,
Longmont City Council, at-large member