Upbeat signs for FasTracks, but miles to go

Posted

Take the good with the bad, and, in the end, say it’s all good.

This pragmatic approach to good mental health often fits the public’s journey in large public works projects as well.

A recent survey prepared for RTD — conducted by BCC Research & Consulting — shows a solidly upbeat view to our Regional Transportation District FasTracks system. Passed by voters in 2004, the 0.4 percent sales tax funded project was originally priced at $4.7 billion.

As it happens, the economy tanked in 2008, and the projected budget climbed to more than $6 billion and now sits at $7.4 billion according to RTD’s estimate last year. It is not surprising that this type of expansive project would take its hits — it’s a big deal to build out the Denver metro’s major corridors with commuter rail systems and additional bus rapid transit.

Who can forget the Big Dig? And although Mount Rushmore and the Statue of Liberty were not transportation projects, those ambitious ventures ran on fumes from time to time — short on funds and support — before they were completed and the following generations of benefactors pronounced it’s all good.

But now, in some ways we are getting close to feeling darn good about FasTracks.

The recent BCC survey with 800 respondents indicated positive perspectives.

The number for the “somewhat positive to very positive” view of FasTracks has been pulling out of a skid to hit 81 percent this year.

The V-shape amounts to 84 percent in 2007; 80 percent, 2009; 71 percent, 2010; 78 percent, 2011, before rising to better than four out of five respondents.

Those who say FasTracks was a good decision tallied higher than 80 percent as well. In passing, those who say it was a bad decision have pegged at a solid 10 percent to 23 percent in the five survey years, and we recognize this group will be around and can drum up some concerning cost per ride and bus vs. rail numbers.

But for another reason, we have a ways to go to reach the true tipping point.

Many areas of the metro with completed corridor lines have fared well — most recently the W Rail Line from Golden through Lakewood to Denver was completed ahead of schedule in April.

But there is another story up north where the entire North Metro Rail Line, originally projected for completion in late 2015, has been pushed back to sometime after 2035 according to the latest RTD projection although request for proposals could change the date.

Interestingly the survey says Adams County respondents — where the North Metro Rail Line rail will run — tallied 78 percent as “somewhat favorable-very favorable.”

The number is better than Boulder County at 68 percent, but not far behind the other five counties included (Weld, Arapahoe, Douglas, Denver and Jefferson), which ranged 79 to 86 percent.

As for Adams County — pretty amazing for an area that will tread in the have-nots category for a few more decades.

While other cities and countries admire FasTracks, we need to be mindful that all promises should be kept south to north before we can confidently say all good.

We’re a ways away.