DENVER AND THE WEST
By Jeffrey Leib Denver Post Staff Writer
BLOGGER NOTE: Please be aware that this article is intended for Jacksonville Residents that "know where Denver is..." (*see note at bottom of article)
Blitzed by an overwhelming demand for electric-powered FasTracks commuter rail, RTD directors unanimously voted Tuesday night to reject diesel power in favor of electric for trains to Denver International Airport and Arvada/Wheat Ridge.
A parade of government officials, civic association heads and neighborhood residents approached the Regional Transportation District microphone to promote electric trains as cleaner environmentally and more likely to support development near rail stations.
Electric rail between Union Station and DIA will save travelers at least five minutes on the trip when compared with diesel, cause "less pollution and less noise" and connect more efficiently at the airport terminal, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper told RTD directors before the vote.
On the roughly 24-mile-long DIA line, with its number of stations, an electric train gets the travel-time savings because it accelerates more quickly than a diesel counterpart, according to RTD's analysis.
Arvada Mayor Ken Fellman warned transit agency directors that "I will face a backlash" from constituents if RTD switched to diesel power for Gold Line trains after electrified rail was promised to Arvada residents in the 2004 FasTracks vote.
Voters approved the $4.7 billion transit expansion that year, but since then, the cost of FasTracks has escalated to $6.2 billion, in part because of an unusually steep rise in the cost of construction materials.
The increase led RTD officials to examine cost-savings measures and an early study showed the agency could save up to $100 million in constructing the Gold Line and DIA train with the switch to diesel by eliminating the expense of overhead electrification.
More recently, RTD updated that analysis, showing that electric rail will actually be cheaper to construct and operate on a long-term basis, since diesel- fuel costs are expected to outpace the expense of electric power. This is especially true if private companies and investors get involved in building and operating the rail lines.
Keith Howard, president of Sunnyside United Neighbors Inc., spoke in favor of electric rail for all four FasTracks commuter rail lines and he welcomed the vote to support electric for two of them, the Gold Line and the airport train.
"It's prudent to take the long view," Howard said. "The board was wise to make a decision in the framework of decades."
RTD still must decide which technology to use on FasTracks commuter rail lines to Boulder/Longmont and north Adams County.
The 2004 FasTracks plan that voters considered assumed both lines would be diesel-powered, but RTD directors said they will wait for results of ongoing environmental studies of both lines before voting on the train technology.
(*NOTE: No insult intended. Just for fun you might recall the NFL coach of the Denver Broncos before their first big meeting in Jacksonville with our Jaguars. The Denver coach made the infamous quote, "Hell, I don't even know where Jacksonville is..." After the Jaguars not only beat Denver but slaughtered their team, one of the Jaguar players grabbed a microphone and asked the Denver Coach on national TV, "Do you know where we are now coach?")