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Appendix: Case Study Profiles

6. Denver, Colorado - FasTracks

Funding Sources and Amounts: $6.1 billion

Years: 2004-present

Sales Tax Bond Transportation Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) Loans, Certificates of Participation (COPs), "Pay as You Go" Cash, Federal New Start, Other Federal Sources, Local Contributions, and Public-Private Partnerships.

Agencies/Organizations Involved: Regional Transportation District (RTD), local communities, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).

Geographic Area: Denver, CO, region.

Problem to Be Addressed

The Denver region is currently home to 2.8 million people and that number is expected to grow to 4.2 million by 2035. As a result, improvements in transportation infrastructure are critical to maintaining the excellent quality of life that attracts so many to this area. In 2008 the RTD carried more than 102 million riders. Ridership on the current rail system has exceeded even the most optimistic projections, carrying more than 60,000 riders every weekday.18

Objectives of Project 19

The FasTracks team's mission is to provide a reliable and safe transit system that enhances mobility, responds to the growing transportation needs within the RTD, and creates a legacy for current and future generations. The main goals are:

Summary of Project

The RTD FasTracks program is an integration of several transit modes and other programs into a comprehensive region-wide system. As part of FasTracks, new technologies - commuter rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) - will be introduced to the region. In addition to the new rail corridors, extensions, and BRT, FasTracks includes new park-n-rides, two new maintenance facilities, expanded bus service called FastConnects, and redevelopment of Denver Union Station.

Type of Funding Used for Project / Plan

Population Served and Modes Served

Denver area residents, especially singles, couples without children, the elderly and low-income minority households; modes include transit and rail.

Project Details 20

FasTrack Background

One notable element of FasTracks is its strong link with the Denver Regional Council of Government's regional plan, Metro Vision, to guide transportation growth, and environmental quality, into the future. Metro Vision is the foundation of all of the regional council's long-range planning activities. The goal of the plan is to protect and enhance the region's quality of life. FasTracks acts to fulfill the purpose of Metro Vision with its three-part focus:

The FasTracks program will provide short-term and long-term benefits to the Metro area. In the short term it will provide economic stability and job creation. At the height of construction in 2011-2012, FasTracks is expected to create more than 10,000 construction-related jobs. In addition, every $1 invested will translate into $6 injected into the local economy. In the long term, FasTracks will provide a reliable and safe regional transit system with transportation options that provide environmental benefits and reduced emissions.

The program consists of six new rapid transit corridors and three corridor extensions. FasTracks includes funding for redevelopment of Denver Union Station into a multimodal transportation hub at the center of the FasTracks system. As part of FasTracks, new technologies such as commuter rail, light rail, and BRT will also be implemented.

FastConnects is another element of FasTracks, a concept designed to improve transit service for suburb-to-suburb travel. FastConnects are designated points where transit services are planned to minimize wait time between transfers. They support efficient connections for passengers transferring from one transit mode to another, including bus to rail, bus to BRT, and rail to bus. Service is designed so that buses and trains traveling to multiple destinations are timed to arrive at major destinations or transfer facilities at the same times, minimizing the time passengers must wait. The FastConnects concept allows for seamless transit connections between suburbs and improves the overall efficiency of the transit network by reducing travel times for patrons. Designated FastConnects points will be located outside central business districts at locations such as park-n-rides, rail stations, designated shopping centers, or employment centers where bus routes connect.

Financing FasTracks

FasTracks has proven to be successful thus far through broad-based funding mechanisms and sources. FasTracks is funded through a combination of sources, including the voter-approved sales tax increase of 0.4 percent, passed in 2004. One key to keeping FasTracks on track is making the most of the money available for the program. Several ongoing efforts help ensure that FasTracks maximizes its use of taxpayer dollars.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). A PPP is described by FTA as a contract wherein a single private entity, typically a consortium of private companies, is responsible and financially liable for performing all or a significant number of functions in connection with a project. PPPs have a solid reputation for delivering projects on time and on budget. The Transportation Expansion (T-REX) Project, which was RTD and CDOT's combined light rail and highway expansion project along the southeast I-25 corridor, was delivered as a design-build project - a type of PPP. T-REX did, in fact, finish on time and on budget. RTD is planning to utilize PPPs to implement many FasTracks projects, including Denver Union Station and the North Metro and I-225 corridors, as well as the East Corridor, Gold Line, and commuter rail maintenance facility projects.

Federal Funding. Approximately $1.4 billion in Federal funding is expected to help pay for FasTracks. RTD constantly analyzes every opportunity to apply for Federal money that can help offset the cost to local taxpayers.

Value Engineering. A requirement on all FTA federally funded projects, the goal is to review all technical aspects of a project and find ways to provide equal or greater value for less cost. Every FasTracks project is thoroughly reviewed on an ongoing basis to find ways to improve efficiency and cost effectiveness.


Since implementation in January 2005, FasTracks has made substantial progress on a number of fronts, especially on the various environmental and design processes. In 2009, four projects began construction, while others completed required environmental studies. Construction has begun along the West Corridor, Denver Union Station, and RTD's light-rail facility. The East Corridor is the next project to start construction, which will connect Denver Union Station to the Denver airport. In 2009 the I-225 corridor wrapped up its environmental process and the Federal Government approved environmental studies for the East Corridor and Gold Line, thereby keeping the projects in good standing to receive further Federal funding.

RTD made a huge step in its railroad agreement to buy property for several FasTracks rail lines, including a $118 million investment for the North Metro Line. Most recently, on January 26, 2010, the final segment was placed on a new pedestrian bridge across the westbound span of U.S. 36.

Livability Principles Promoted by Project

Promotion Livability Principles
F Increase transportation choices
  Promote affordable housing
F Enhance economic competitiveness
F Support existing communities
P Coordinate Federal policies and leverage investment
F Value communities and neighborhoods

P: Partly Supports
F: Fully Supports


  • How to deliver neighborhoods that provide TOD's signature qualities - pedestrian orientation, services within walking distance, and access to jobs and housing options for a wide range of households - when many of the sites for new transit stations in Denver are located in older industrial areas with significant infrastructure needs and brownfield issues?
  • How to conduct successful financial planning with the rapidly fluctuating economy?
  • How to continue implementation of the FasTracks Plan when the recent economic environment caused sales and use tax growth (used to fund FasTracks) to decline below the predicted rate used in the 2004 FasTracks financial plan?


  • A voter-approved sales tax increase of 0.4 percent was passed to fund FasTracks activities, signifying widespread support for the project.
  • FasTracks will provide 10,000 jobs at the height of construction, and will bring more jobs to the region even after the project is completed through the need for train conductors, landscaping crews, etc.
  • FasTracks creates more commuting choices, better connections, freedom from congestion and resulting cleaner air, a healthier and more active community, and a stimulus to the economy.

Perspectives on Implementing the

Project and Its Impacts

Project Status 21

As of early 2010, the status of the project is as follows:

FasTracks was initially billed as a 12-year construction project, to be finished in 2017. However, due to decreased growth in sales tax revenue, RTD does not have enough money to build all of FasTracks by 2017.22 RTD has proposed two options to complete the project: (1) approve a tax hike (double the current 0.4 percent sales tax) in November to complete the project by 2017, or (2) approve the tax hike in 2012 to complete the project by 2019. Failure to approve a tax increase could push FasTracks completion to 2040.23

Applicability of Lessons Learned to Other Projects or Challenges

Roles of MPOs / DOTs and Policy / Plan Outcomes

The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) committee structure, which includes the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC), Regional Transportation Committee (RTC), and a study session committee comprising DRCOG board members and the Metro Vision Issues Committee (MVIC), oversees transportation planning for the MPO and makes recommendations to the DRCOG board on funding of the TIP. Every year, RTD is required to submit an annual report for DRCOG on the status and progress of FasTracks. The report enables DRCOG to determine whether there are any substantial changes that require further action to approve financial plans and vehicle technology for the project.

For More Information

Sources and Other Resources:

18 Cited from multiple online sources

19 Cited from multiple online sources

20 Cited from multiple sources, including: http://www.rtd-fastracks. com/main_1

21 Cited from multiple online sources



HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership | DOT Livability | FTA Livable & Sustainable Communities
Updated: 10/20/2015
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