RTD considering privatization due to cost overruns | SummitDaily.com

RTD considering privatization due to cost overruns

DENVER – Officials of the Denver metro area’s Regional Transportation District are considering putting some new light rail and bus lines out to private bidders to rein in cost overruns of nearly $1.5 billion on new lines scheduled to go into operation by 2017.RTD leaders met Saturday to look for solutions.Voters approved $4.7 billion for the expansion in November 2004. But now it appears it will cost up to $6.1 billion.”The cost increases in construction materials really whacked us,” Cal Marsella, RTD general manager, said Friday as he released a summary of a four-month internal review of the entire rapid-transit program.The price of steel, for example, has risen from an average of 73 cents a pound in 2003 to $2.63 last year.”We’ve had big hits on capital costs, but we’re going to take effective corrective action to bring this program back in line,” Marsella said.Marsella said by putting out the projects to private bidders, the companies could arrange financing.Jon Caldara, a former RTD official who has become a leading critic of mass transit, said it was obvious from the beginning that the project known as FasTracks was underfunded.”It’s a shame the voters bought the lie of FasTracks,” he said.Ridership on the main routes of the newest light rail line, which connects downtown with the Denver Tech Center, has exceeded expectations. Total weekday ridership on the entire light-rail system averaged 62,523 – higher than the RTD projection of 54,000 with the completion of the Interstate 25 expansion project T-REX, the Rocky Mountain News reported.Marsella said another cost-saver will be cutting the light rail line to Jefferson County from one track to two.”We don’t want to impact the functionality of the corridors, but where we can make changes, but still protect the original integrity of the plan, we’re going to do that,” said Marsella. “I don’t have all those nailed down yet, but it will happen in every single corridor.”

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