In the early 2000s, The Regional Transportation District (RTD) of the greater Denver area developed a very robust and ambitious plan to construct and operate more than 100 additional miles of commuter and light rail service throughout the region by 2017. Funding for what RTD calls FasTracks was supported by a 2004 voter-approved regional sales tax measure that dedicates 4 cents to every dollar spent to the project. This allowed the project to begin, however, due to an unexpected downturn in the economy and other unplanned financial constraints, RTD realized an additional sales tax increase was imperative.
after voter polling suggested the ballot would be approved, the RTD Board decided
the “timing was wrong” to take the measure to the voters and decided against
it. Yet, the District devised several interesting and creating finance plans to
pay for major components of the FastTracks project. The first plan involves a
Public-Private Partnership with a team of private firms to design, build,
operate, and maintain several of the rail lines. This is fairly rare in the
American transit industry, but allows RTD to essentially make payments over
time to construct and operate quality transit service. This also minimizes
their reliance on Federal transit funding from gas taxes for capital project,
which is very limited and continue to be in
question in the State of Colorado (Puentes and Prince). RTD event went as far as to recommend an
adjustment to the plan by approving the decision to build and operate BRT instead of rail along
one of the corridors to save money. More recently, the RTD board approved a series
of rather unique funding strategies to support continuation of the project by
identifying 8 different ways to reallocate internal funding, request additional
stakeholder financial support, and selling RTD-owned property, just to name a few. RTD
will not let anything get in their way to deliver what they promised more than
10 years ago, and should be commended for such innovative and responsible
funding strategies to get there.
1. Cotey, Angela. "Denver RTD pursues funding options for FasTracks." Web. <http://www.progressiverailroading.com/passenger_rail/article/Denver-RTD-pursues-funding-options-for-FasTracks--25974>. Progressive Railroading. March 2011.
2. Whaley, Monte. "RTD board nixes FasTracks tax vote this year." Web. <http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_20473137/rtd-board-nixes-fastracks-tax-vote-this-year>. Denver Post. April 2012.
3. Regional Transportation District. FasTracks. Web. <http://www.rtd-fastracks.com/main_91>
4. Puentes, R. and R. Prince. (2003). Fueling Transportation Finance: A Primer on the Gas Tax. Brookings Institution. (pp. 12-13)
5. Whaley, Monte. "RTD approves funding plan for Denver's FasTracks." Web. <http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_22219763/rtd-approves-funding-plan-denvers-fastracks>