With the FasTracks train from Union Station to Denver International Airport now projected to cost $435 million more than originally forecast, planners on Tuesday outlined measures aimed at slashing the budget, including substituting diesel railcars for electric trains and eliminating more than 1,000 parking spaces.
RTD additionally can save up to
$60 million by having the airport train cross Peoria Street at grade in Aurora as the train runs in the Smith Road corridor, FasTracks planner Mike Turner told local government officials.
Earlier plans for the DIA train called for Peoria Street to bridge over the commuter and freight rail tracks.
"We looked at Peoria going over, but the cost of it is pretty staggering," Turner said.
Aurora transportation planner Mac Callison said his city is worried about emergency vehicles trying to reach the nearby Fitzsimons medical complex getting delayed by gates at the Peoria crossing.
"We're extremely concerned about life-safety issues" and traffic congestion if the trains cross at grade, Callison said, adding that the medical complex will have at least three trauma centers.
FasTracks engineering proj-
ect manager Carol Duecker said planners believe they can put procedures in place to "mitigate" delays at the Peoria crossing.
To further save money on the airport train, planners propose to eliminate the 800-space parking lot at the Colorado Boulevard station and reduce parking at the Peoria station to 550 spaces from 800.
The largest savings for the airport train - up to $75 million upfront - could come by switching to self-propelled diesel railcars instead of electric cars.
But RTD's financial advisers said that if the line is built with a public-private partnership, the higher upfront cost of the electric cars could be spread out over time and would be offset by lower operating and maintenance costs in the long term.
Planners will hold public meetings July 18-19 on the East Corridor cost-cutting proposals. Go to www.i-70eastcorridor.com for details on the meetings.
Planners especially want to gauge public reaction to the idea of switching to diesel rail, Turner said.
Up to now, community groups and residents along the East Corridor have expressed a strong preference for electric rail.
In a related effort, the Denver City Council is considering hiring a consultant to get objective information on pros and cons of diesel railcars.
Councilwoman Judy Montero told her colleagues she wanted to be sure decisions on FasTracks lines are not made in spite of residents' quality of life.
"A lot of times when decisions are made based just on the bottom line they are not the best decision," Montero said at a meeting Monday. "We are not going to get the opportunity to go back and make this right."
Several council members acknowledged their apprehension about diesel cars during the meeting. Councilman Rick Garcia said even if a consultant's review affirmed the positives of diesel cars, the information would be helpful for constituents.
"If they (RTD) end up going in these directions," he said, "there is going to be some fallout."
Staff writer Jeffrey Leib can be reached at 303-954-1645 or at firstname.lastname@example.org