The Metro Mayors Caucus endorsed supporting a sales tax increase ballot question to provide money to complete the FasTracks public transportation …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
The Metro Mayors Caucus endorsed supporting a sales tax increase
ballot question to provide money to complete the FasTracks public
transportation expansion as planned.
The caucus was formed in 1993 to provide a non-partisan
organization promoting collaboration on issues affecting the entire
metro area. Englewood Mayor Jim Woodward said there were 25 of the
36 mayors at the March 11 meeting focusing on FasTracks.
Woodward said the consensus was that FasTracks is a regional
issue and there should be support of a proposal to increase sales
tax 0.4 percent to provide the money to build all elements of the
project and complete as promised by 2017.
Two light rail riders had different opinions about the proposal
to increase sales taxes.
Helen Bullock said mass transit expansion is too important not
to provide the necessary financing.
She said she would definitely vote for a sales tax increase for
FasTracks because she wants a better system available for travel
around the metro area and particularly to the air port.
“That little tax increase is a small price to pay for the
convenience of rapid transit to Arvada, Golden or the airport,” she
said as she waited for a train at the Littleton Light Rail
Gary Garibaldi had a very different opinion as he waited for a
train at the Arapahoe Light Rail Station.
The Centennial resident said he is already paying for the system
through sales taxes and fares and he doesn’t want to pay more.
He said the system is OK but not great and probably fares are
too high already. Additionally, now is not the time to ask for more
money considering the state of the economy.
“I definitely would vote no on on a tax increase request,” he
said. “I am just getting by as it is. This light rail is all I use
and I don’t want to pay more to see an expansion that I probably
would never use.”
The Metro Mayors Caucus action is only an endorsement and
doesn’t mean a tax increase is in the works.
The final decision to request voters approve a sales tax
increase rests with the Regional Transportation District Board of
Directors which will take up the issue between now and August, the
deadline to get the issue on the ballot.
“The Metro Mayors Caucus support is very encouraging,” said
Scott Reed, RTD spokesman. “We appreciate all the hard work the
mayors and others have put into the study and discussions that led
to the March 11 decision.”
He pointed out there is a long way to go before there is a final
decision whether or not to seek a tax increase to fully fund
FasTracks. He emphasized that decision rests with the RTD board of
directors and will be on the agenda this summer.
FasTracks is the 12-year project to expand the metro area mass
transit system. Plans were to add a total of 119 miles of light
rail and commuter rail lines, enhance bus networks, transform Union
Station into the metro-area transit hub, create five new
Park-N-Ride facilities and improve existing transit systems and
facilities. The project was scheduled to be completed by 2017.
Voters approved a 0.4 percent sales tax increase in 2004 to fund
FasTracks. However, the poor economy put a crimp in the financing
plans as sales-tax revenues declined 31 percent and construction
costs rose 41 percent. The result is the forecast in revenues will
fall $2.2 billion short of covering construction costs to complete
the FasTracks project by 2017.
The Metro Mayors Caucus appointed a task force to begin looking
at the FasTracks financial problem five months ago.
Woodward, a member of the task force, said the group meets
weekly to evaluate the data provided.
He said the focus all along was to make sure that all the
proposed mass transit projects were completed as planned and
completed on time.
“We recognized the financial difficulties FasTracks and RTD
faced,” he said. “I think that is why we felt the best solution was
to endorse putting the sales-tax increase issue on the ballot.”
Bob Frie, Arvada mayor, agreed.
He said it is clear FasTracks faces tough financial decisions if
no additional revenues are provided.
“There isn’t enough money available now to build the entire
FasTracks project,” he said. “But the members of the caucus agreed
mass transit is essential to the entire regional area and everyone
wants to see it completed as designed.”
John Caldara, long-time opponent of light rail, spoke out
against the sales tax increase. The president of the Independence
Institute, a conservative think tank, said approving a sales tax
increase would reward RTD for failure.
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.