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RTD Considers New Northwest Rail-Bus Alternative

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An image from an RTD Board meeting on March 5, 2012. (credit: CBS)

An image from an RTD Board meeting on March 5, 2012. (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – There’s a new plan on the table to keep commuter trains as part of the Regional Transportation District’s FasTracks plan in the northwestern part of the Denver metro area.

In light of financial problems that have emerged since FasTracks was approved in 2004, RTD unveiled a plan Monday that would run commuter trains from Union Station only to Church Ranch Boulevard. Rapid-transit buses would then run from that Westminster location to Boulder County and end in Longmont. The buses would run on that route until the entire northwest rail line is complete.

“Two major factors sort of caused this what we call perfect storm,” RTD General Manager Philip Washington said.

philip washington RTD Considers New Northwest Rail Bus Alternative

RTD General Manager Philip Washington speaks at RTD's March 5 meeting. (credit: CBS)

A decline in sales tax revenue and rising construction costs created the problem. RTD says when the rail will be built rides on the approval of a new sales tax.

The new proposed tax would be the same rate as the old one that’s currently in effect — 4 cents on every $10 — so the new tax would be 8 cents per $10. But the concept of a new tax didn’t sit well with some commuters who attended Monday’s RTD meeting.

“We don’t have a prayer of passing a new tax when the people don’t trust that you’re going to actually use the tax for what it was passed for,” said RTD rider Barb Stephens.

Watch Valerie Castro’s report in the video clip below:

Washington said that with the passage of a tax hike the hybrid bus-rail option would be completed in 2020 or some time close to that. He said the plan “will provide the comprehensive cost effective mobility improvements for the region that we know are needed.”

The RTD Board still has to approve the new plan and then decide whether to go forward with the tax increase proposal. If voters don’t approve the nex tax RTD says it could be 30 years before rail service from Union Station to Longmont is up and running.

Another meeting is planned for Thursday.

David Longanecker moved his Boulder non-profit in 2007 to a location within steps of the proposed commuter rail. He supported the original tax and says he would support a new one but only if it means rail, not bus.

“We were prepared to move in to this world with rapid transit rail, not rapid transit bus, that’s an oxymoron,” Longanecker said. “Rail is the option we were promised. It’s really the only viable rapd transit system.”

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