FasTracks Looming Heart Attack

We all love FasTracks.  For some it is happening slower than we’d like, for others it’s costs are hard to accept, and for many of us the ongoing construction is bothersome.  Generally, however, we know this is a good thing for Denver Metro.  When we look at FasTracks and all of its corridors reaching into places like Lone Tree, Aurora, Lakewood and Westminster, we see an emerging comprehensive system that provides us with more choice for moving around our great city.  The East Corridor offers one of the more regional attractions in the airport of course, and I, for one, could not be more excited about this.  As a transit advocate, and specialist in transit-served commercial real estate, I have always believed serving DIA is an all too important component for a comprehensive system in Denver.  Clearly, we are getting there, but with all progress comes new challenges.

denvergov lrt rossonian pic

One particular item that was once just a small enhancement to FasTracks is now becoming a huge missing link in the system – the Central Corridor Extension (CCE).  Described in the FasTracks plan as a 0.8 mile light rail extension along Downing Street connecting the rail on Welton to the East Corridor at the 38th and Blake station, it seemed somewhat minor when compared to the West Corridor or I-225 Corridor, and rightfully so.

Central Rail Extension Map

The scale of the CCE was small, it’s connection to communities underserved by transit was small and the story of the CCE not poised to be politically charged in comparison.  Today, however, the world is a different place.  We now have an operating West Corridor, an I-225 Corridor under construction, East Corridor, Gold Line and part of the US36 Corridor under construction, and ground was recently broken on the North Metro Line.  All of a sudden transit mobility is happening everywhere and the fingers of FasTracks are beginning to extend for more and more people.  We can now see a day when suburban Thornton residents will be able to access jobs in Downtown Denver without a car, a day when bicyclists in Lakewood can access a Central Park bike event in Stapleton, a day when the region can move in and out of DIA without a car.  A day of a true transit circulatory system.

This day is coming, but is now haunted by what may become a heart attack – completing a robust and intelligent CCE.  With all of the transit access coming, with all of the new trips that will be generated throughout the Metro area, the focus quickly becomes what was missed.  CCE, albeit small, is a vastly important piece of FasTracks.  The CCE is the missing link to make Downtown Denver a more fluid environment for offering us the ability to leave our car at home.  Without the CCE, we must access Downtown in only two places: Denver Union Station from the north and east and through the Convention Center area from the south.  Without CCE there is no regional access into northeast Downtown Denver.  No regional access to Civic Center Park, to Broadway, to Uptown, to RTD’s Civic Center Station, to the light rail tracks already serving the middle of the city.  Further, without a robust CCE, even having rail on Downing Street presents undesirable challenges for regional mobility.

RTD is working to resolve this problem by studying alternatives for the CCE and moving forward with a short term and long term strategy.  Continue to look to DenverUrbanism and for continual updates about the CCE project and some of the other exciting and original news about Five Points.  To dig in deeper, check out this video of RTD’s first meeting about the CCE provided as a link from the Central Corridor project website: