Summer 2007 Newsletter
Gold Line Selects Electric Commuter Rail Alternative
Marking the most significant milestone to date in the Gold Line Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the RTD Board recently accepted electric commuter rail on the BNSF/Union Pacific railroad alignment as the preferred alternative for the Gold Line. This decision allows the Gold
Line Team to move forward with the more detailed engineering and environmental analysis that is needed to get federal approvals for the project.
The RTD Board also accepted the team's recommendation to remove the streetcar alternative from consideration for the Gold Line. This alternative - which generated some interest in the community, particularly in northwest Denver - was proposed to run on local streets including 38th Avenue, Harlan Street and Ridge Road.
The project team recommended the selection of the electric commuter rail alternative in early June and held public workshops on June 26 and 27 to gather public input on their recommendation. Comments gathered from the public, as well as the feedback from local governments and regulatory agencies, showed overwhelming support for selecting the electric commuter rail alternative and eliminating the streetcar alternative.
"Our analysis showed that electric commuter rail in the railroad alignment is twice as fast and will likely attract 50 percent more riders than the streetcar alternative," said Gold Line project manager Liz Telford. "The June public workshops confirmed that
this alternative is broadly supported by the community, and we're very pleased to name it as the preferred alternative for the Gold Line."
As part of its ongoing commitment to partner with the community, the Gold Line Team will host public workshops on October 23 and 24 to present preliminary engineering/design refinements and a summary of environmental impacts associated with the electric commuter rail alternative. The analysis will be summarized in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is scheduled for completion by early 2008.
GET INVOLVED IN THE GOLD LINE
Attend one of these upcoming public workshops to stay informed on the RTD FasTracks Gold Line project:
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
6901 Wadsworth Blvd.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Highlands Masonic Center
3550 Federal Blvd.
At the workshops, the Gold Line Team will present the preliminary engineering designs of the Preferred Alternative and summarize the preliminary findings from their more detailed evaluations. This is an excellent opportunity to speak to members of the project team and submit comments on the Gold Line.
Gold Line at a Glance
Next Steps for the Gold Line
Now that electric commuter rail on the railroad alignment has been selected as the preferred alternative for the Gold Line, the project team will spend the coming months conducting more detailed evaluations in order to secure approvals from the Federal Transit Administration. The complete analysis will be summarized in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which is scheduled to be released by early 2008.
The first step will be for Gold Line engineers develop more detailed engineering designs of the project. This engineering will further refine things like track design, station layout, and the location of parking and bridges.
Additionally, the team will begin to conduct what's known as preliminary value
engineering for the Gold Line. Preliminary value engineering takes a high-level look at ways to deliver the same project -- and the same level of service -- at a lower cost. This is important to the Gold Line, as the most recent cost estimates show that the project is approximately $60 to $70 million over the $484 million budget approved as part of FasTracks.
The Gold Line team will also begin conducting more detailed, quantitative studies to identify potential impacts associated with the proposed project. Where impacts are
identified, the team will attempt to find ways to minimize and avoid those impacts.
There are 13 different categories of impacts that will be evaluated, including impacts to the human environment, such as historic districts and traffic flow, and impacts to the natural environment, such as wetlands and air quality. In the cases where impacts are shown exceed allowable limits, there is a three-step process that the team must follow.
"We first look for ways to avoid the impact," explains Terry Ruiter, the Gold Line's lead
environmental planner. "If we can't avoid the impact, then we look at ways to minimize it. If the impact still remains, then we'll look at ways to mitigate or lessen it."
One example of a type of impact that will be analyzed for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is noise and vibration. Engineers will gather corridor-wide data on
current noise and vibration levels. The team will then determine the effect that operating the Gold Line would have on those levels. If there are areas where the project would increase noise or vibration levels beyond allowable limits, the team will look for ways to avoid, minimize or mitigate the impact.
The team will present the preliminary results of its environmental impacts analysis at the next round of Gold Line public workshops, to be held on Oct. 23 at the Arvada Center and Oct. 24 at the Highlands Masonic Center. Both meetings will begin at 6 p.m.
After the Environmental Impact Statement is published, the FTA will issue a final decision document on the Gold Line (anticipated by the end of 2008) before project team can begin the final design and construction of the project. The Gold Line is on schedule to be completed by 2015.
New Issue Focused Teams Forming
The Gold Line Team will be convening additional Issue Focused Teams in the coming months to discuss topics associated with the more detailed levels of evaluation that are now being conducted for the Gold Line.
Issue Focused Teams are citizen groups that partner with members of local governments and the Gold Line team to discuss and develop solutions related to specific issues. For this round of meetings, we're looking for members of the public to provide detailed input to the Gold Line team on ways to minimize potential impacts while retaining the same level of service for the project. Teams are convened on an as-needed basis for hands-on work sessions with the goal of enhancing the Gold Line project.
If you are interested in joining an Issue Focused Team, please contact us through the information listed below. After you sign up, we will contact you with details on specific teams.
Sign up for an Issue Focused Team
By Phone: (303) 299-2000
By Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Public-Private Partnerships 101
As part of its Annual Program Evaluation, the RTD Board has recommended pursuing a public-private partnership to finance the Gold Line, the East Corridor and the Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility. Independent of the EIS process, a public-private partnership is an innovative financing option in which a public entity partners with the private sector to design, build and/or operate a public infrastructure project.
A public-private partnership would have many benefits for the Gold Line. With this financing option, private companies would assume much of the risk associated with the project including design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance. It also would allow RTD to spread the entire cost of a project over a longer period of time rather than paying millions of dollars in cash for upfront costs. Preliminary estimates indicate that public-private partnerships could potentially save 10 percent on capital and operating costs.
A common approach to building and operating highways -- like E-470 -- and transit systems, public-private partnerships have a reputation for delivering projects on time and on budget and are often known to help accelerate a project's construction schedule.
If the Gold Line is financed through a public-private partnership, RTD would still maintain control over the operation and maintenance of the system through requirements written into the agreement with the private entity. For example, RTD could include in its agreement requirements for service, maintenance, performance standards and fare structure.
Design standards and ownership of the system would all be retained by RTD. Oftentimes with public-private partnerships, the public agency has in-house management to monitor and oversee the performance of the private contractor to ensure that they comply with all standards and requirements. Additionally, RTD could cancel the agreement if the private contractor is not performing up to the agreed upon standards.
What is the Penta-P?
The Gold Line and East Corridor were recently accepted into a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) pilot program that provides incentives to encourage public-private partnerships in transit projects. FTA's Public-Private-Partnership Pilot Program - or Penta-P- will provide a variety of advantages, including a lower threshold for getting federal grants, faster processing of federal reviews/approvals and quicker disbursements of federal funds. RTD is in the process of developing the requirements to include in a Request for Proposal and anticipates selecting a private partner by the end of 2008.
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