It’s still unclear just how much of the $90.2 million in federal stimulus money headed Colorado’s way for urban transit will go to RTD’s FasTracks commuter and light-rail, but what is abundantly clear is it won’t be enough.
Still, Democratic U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette Thursday was quick to hail the government’s release of Colorado’s share of the transit-funding pie, which some critics have charged is far too small in comparison to stimulus funds directed to highway expansion, maintenance and repairs.
Federal Transit Administration funding for Colorado, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, totals $103.4 million, with $12.4 directed to public transit in small towns and the rest headed to urban areas.
“These transit funds will immediately help stabilize our economy in Denver and throughout Colorado,” DeGette said in a release.. “Colorado has many transit projects ready-to-go that will create and save thousands of jobs while reducing congestion and providing residents with green transportation options. With this funding, we can purchase and repair buses, continue expanding Denver’s light rail system, and get our economy moving.”
But according to RTD, FasTracks, funded by a sales tax increase approved in a 2004 metro-area election, is $2.1 billion short of the $7.9 billion needed to build out the system promised to voters.
RTD is weighing a sales-tax increase to fund the system, and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper recently broached the idea of a toll on Pena Boulevard, the main route to Denver International Airport, to fund FasTracks. That is feasible now under a local tolling provision in the recently passed FASTER bill that raises vehicle registration fees to pay for road and bridge repairs.