THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Don't Throw FasTracks Under a Bus

The recent editorial in the Denver Post by editorial board members David Harsanyi and Chuck Plunkett, "Can FasTracks Be Saved?", is based on faulty assumptions, strawman arguments, and false statements.

The critics said that rail transit will dramatically slow traffic, creating "snarls" at at-grade crossings. They cite cases from Minneapolis because they have no evidence of "snarls" here. Rather, we've all been behind a bus, forcing cars to slow or stop behind the bus or cause near collisions as cars attempt to change lanes to pass it.

Rail transit is meant as a supplement or an alternative to cars. It is especially crucial during high demand periods such as commutes, games, and other major events which draw thousands of people who then avoid traffic snarls and parking cutthroats. Trains are never stuck in traffic, and they are almost always on time. Winter approaches -- watch the trains fly by as your car crawls and slides along slushy and icy I-25.

As for RTD's supposed mishandling of FasTracks, the two writers clearly haven't experienced the current economic distress that government and most of the American people have. RTD was seriously and undeniably impacted by a drop in revenue from sales tax and a major increase in costs due to the rise in commodity prices.

Even if RTD made a mistake with its estimates, it wasn't because of the editorial's claim of willful deception. For a construction project of this magnitude, there are bound to be setbacks. Those of you who have built a house know this firsthand. The critics also argue that RTD is "placating" metro area mayors when it is working with them to enlist their support to push FasTracks forward. Their line of thinking is reminiscent of the Bush era, "my way or the highway," and highways are exactly what the authors want -- more roads. Perhaps they should visit Los Angeles to see how well that worked.

The only redeeming part of the editorial was when the authors conceded that rail is a big boon, stimulating new stores and homes at transit-oriented-development, and creating a better quality of life as the region grows dramatically. The Cinderella City redevelopment is but one amazing success story. With a wave of their pens the critics dismissed the air quality benefits of rail transit, despite proof from studies and models by DRCOG (Denver Regional Council of Governments). It is also a fact that TOD around rail stations increases property values, and for every dollar of public money, private money flows in 3 to 5 times that over 20 years.

Unlike the critics of FasTracks, the giants in Denver's history understood constructing major projects benefits the city in the long-term. When the Transcontinental Railroad bypassed Denver in 1869, a rail spur saved Denver from extinction. Citizens and their leaders raised bonds and even helped work to construct the railroad. That effort boosted Denver and set the stage for a massive light rail network operated by the Denver Tramway Company. Denver's history and destiny is bound to the completion of FasTracks. Let's not throw it under a bus.