Feds will add $304 million to Union Station project

FasTracks’ federal funding picture came into sharper focus today as the Federal Transit Administration announced it will provide the sought-after $304 million in loans toward the conversion of Denver Union Station into a regional commuter rail hub.

FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, who traveled to Denver for the announcement, also said that by including $80 million in grants to the two commuter rail corridors to Denver International Airport and Arvada-Wheat Ridge in President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget, the feds are sending a clear signal that they intend to sign agreements with RTD, likely next year, to provide New Starts grants for the East Corridor and Gold Line commuter rail projects.

“That translates into a federal commitment to provide over a billion dollars for FasTracks,” Rogoff said to a crowd of about 200 people at the Union Station transit platform. “You put that together with the Union Station loans and they represent thousands of jobs.

“These dollars are an initial downpayment on those projects,” Rogoff said. “The most important part of Monday’s announcement is that the Obama Administration committed itself to signing a Full Funding Grant Agreement for both of these projects.

“Make no mistake about it, the discussion is over. Union Station is going to happen. It’s at the center of what President Obama is talking about when he talks about economic recovery,” Rogoff said.

Transit advocates who have been planning for the day that the historic train station would be reborn were ecstatic.

“This is a historic day in the history of Colorado,” said Dana Crawford, the developer who helped pioneer the rebirth of lower downtown. Reactivation of the station as part of FasTracks is expected to spur the growth of the Central Platte Valley.

One by one, question marks that surround RTD’s FasTracks rapid transit program are being turned into exclamation points as these key targets in the beleaguered financing plan are reached. The grants and loans Rogoff announced Friday are not new money for FasTracks – the amounts already had been plugged into the financial plan – but by committing to those amounts, Rogoff eliminates a few more of the unknowns.

The announcement provides some relief for local officials who have been concerned about RTD’s ability to nail down the remaining unsettled pieces of the budget.

Read more at Kevin Flynn’s Inside Lane.

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