Summer 2009 - FEIS Newsletter
RTD Gold Line Hits Important Milestone with Release of Final EIS
The Gold Line Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) has been released, marking a major milestone in the project's approval process. This document is the culmination of three years of screening, analysis and public participation. Its publication marks the final step in the environmental process before the project is formally approved by the Federal Transit Administration to move into final design and construction.
The Gold Line is proposed to run along the BNSF/Union Pacific railroad route from Denver Union Station to Ward Road in Wheat Ridge, passing through northwest Denver, Adams County and Arvada along the way. The line has seven proposed stations, located at 41st Avenue, Pecos, Federal, Sheridan, Olde Town, Arvada Ridge and Ward Road. The FEIS is an updated version of the Draft EIS (DEIS) that was published last summer. It summarizes the Gold Line team's screening process, provides more in-depth information on the Preferred Alternative and responds to all public and agency comments received on the DEIS.
As part of the FEIS, the project team completed more detailed engineering design, updated the project's impacts analysis and refined all mitigation measures. The FEIS also includes all final station locations, stations aesthetics and decisions on fencing. Additionally, the document includes a description of the Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility (CRMF), including its impacts and proposed mitigation measures.
The FEIS was officially released on August 21, 2009, kicking off a 30-day public comment period that includes public hearings on September 9 and 17 (see below for meeting details and ways to submit comments). The comment period ends on September 21, 2009. The document is available on the project web site and at public libraries in the study area. Copies will also be available for review at the public hearings in September.
Following the end of the public comment period, the final document will be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for approval. RTD expects to receive the FTA's decision this fall. RTD will then continue to work with a private-sector partner (see article on page 3) to complete final engineering and design by the end of 2010. The Gold Line is anticipated to open to the public in 2015/2016.
Gold Line Public Hearings
Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 6 p.m.
6901 Wadsworth Blvd.
Thursday, September 17, 2009, 6 p.m.
Highlands Masonic Center
3550 Federal Blvd.
How to Submit FEIS Comments
David Beckhouse - FTA Region 8
600 17th Street, #2020-S
Denver, CO 80202
At the public hearings on September 9 and 17
Maintenance Facility Location Identified
One major difference between the Gold Line Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and the Final EIS (FEIS) is the inclusion of the Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility (CRMF). As part of the FasTracks program, RTD needs a new facility to clean, maintain and repair the Gold Line commuter rail vehicles as well as the rest of the FasTracks commuter rail fleet.
In April, RTD published a Supplemental Environmental Assessment (SEA) for a maintenance facility proposed to be located on the Fox North site at 48th Avenue and Fox Street, just northwest of I-25 and I-70. During the SEA public comment period, the surrounding communities generally expressed support for building a facility at this site. However, affected business owners and employees expressed concerns about potential economic and employment impacts that could result if Owens Corning (one of the impacted property owners) decided to cease its operations rather than to proceed with the federal relocation process.
In response, RTD modified the site design in a manner that will still allow RTD to meet the operational requirements of the maintenance facility, but will not require RTD to purchase as much of the Owens Corning property. Based on the new design, the impacts to the Owens Corning property would be limited to outside storage areas (used for roofing materials) and some parking areas, which would have to be relocated. After reviewing the modified design, Owens Corning recently informed RTD that they believe their operation can continue on its current site adjacent to the CRMF.
A description of the proposed CRMF, its anticipated impacts and the proposed mitigation measures are included in the FEIS. A map of the modified CRMF design, as well as the four changes that were made, is below (click on the image to view a larger version).
Paying for the Gold Line
Public and Private Entities to Jointly Fund the Project
The Gold Line is one of two FasTracks projects planned to be partially funded by federal dollars. Under the current financing plan, about half of the $590 million cost of the Gold Line will be covered by Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding, while the other half is expected to be funded through a public-private partnership agreement, known as the Eagle P3. Both of these funding sources are critical to the successful completion of the Gold Line.
The Eagle P3 (RTD and the FTA's public-private partnership program) will allow RTD to partner with the private sector to finance, design, build, operate and maintain several FasTracks projects under a single contract. The Gold Line and East Corridor (the FasTracks line to Denver International Airport) are planned be delivered and operated under an agreement between RTD and a private-sector partner that will be selected through a competitive proposal process.
In the public-private partnership agreement, RTD will retain ownership of the system and will continue to set all of its operating and performance standards. The benefit is that the financial risk is largely shifted to the private partner. In return, RTD would make lease payments to the private partner, spreading out large upfront costs over a longer period of time, much like a 40-year mortgage versus a 20-year mortgage.
There are several steps that must be completed before the public-private partnership can move forward for the Gold Line. RTD must receive final approvals from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) before it can qualify for federal funds. RTD has to compete nationally for federal funding, so it's crucial that the Gold Line is as efficient and cost-effective as possible. The Eagle P3 procurement is dependent on the receipt of federal funding.
The Eagle P3 project is important to the FTA and to RTD in demonstrating that innovative financing - including federal, local and private financing - can deliver these important rail projects in a timely and cost-effective manner.
RTD Identifies Gold Line Station Design Templates
RTD is committed to ensuring that its commuter rail stations are well-suited to the unique character of their surrounding communities. As part of that commitment, the Gold Line Final EIS identifies four different design templates for its commuter rail stations. These templates, developed with input from citizens throughout the Gold Line corridor, will provide thematic guidance for the final station designs. While many station elements will be the same throughout the Gold Line corridor (e.g. ticket vending machines, bike racks, trash receptacles), there are other items -- such as fencing, canopies and shelters -- that can be unique to each station's design template. This thematic design approach will help Gold Line stations be representative of their surrounding area, be it more urban, industrial, residential or historic.
The four design templates are:
Neighborhood Craftsman - Planned for the Sheridan and Arvada Ridge stations
Main Street Historic - Planned for the Olde Town Arvada station
Town Center Contemporary - Planned for the Federal and Ward Road stations
Industrial Loft Modern - Planned for the 41st Avenue East and Pecos stations
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