U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today toured Denver's West Rail Line project, which will improve access to major employers and area universities while reducing traffic in a highly congested corridor, all part of President Obama's vision of an "America Built to Last."
The Secretary was joined by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver Regional Transportation District General Manager Phil Washington and other officials.
"President Obama called on us to rebuild America by putting people back to work on transportation projects, and we are doing that throughout the Denver region," said Secretary LaHood. "All across America, there is work to be done on projects like the West Rail Line. Now is the time to connect people who need work with the work we need to do to improve our nation's transit centers, highways, railways, airports and ports."
The 12-mile project has created more than 500 construction-related jobs, according to the Denver Regional Transportation District.
Secretary LaHood's visit follows President Obama's State of the Union address, in which he called for using funds saved from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay down the debt and to support a transportation bill that would clear the way for nation-building here in the United States.
At the West Line project, Secretary LaHood also spoke about the importance of continuing to fund transit projects nationwide, in the wake of recent efforts in the House to remove a primary source of funding for transit systems.
"With record high transit ridership, now is not the time to retreat from President Obama's vision of an "America built to last' by eliminating a guaranteed funding source for public transportation that has been in place since the Reagan Administration," said Secretary LaHood. "More and more Americans are looking for greater choices in transportation today, and it's important we provide the funding to ensure transit remains one of the choices."
The West Rail Line, now 85 percent complete, is expected to open in May 2013. Roughly half of the $709.8 million West Rail Line project is funded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), including a $308 million federal funding agreement awarded in January 2009.
When the Denver Regional Transportation District opens the West Rail Line next year, it will be the first completed leg of Denver's comprehensive multibillion-dollar transit expansion plan, known as FasTracks. FasTracks will add 122 miles of new commuter rail and light rail and 18 miles of bus rapid transit across the eight-county district.
Other FasTracks projects the Obama Administration has helped fund include a $1 billion agreement signed in August 2011 for the Eagle P3, a 30-mile commuter rail project that will provide the city's first connection to Denver International Airport and put an estimated 4,700 people to work. The Administration has also provided funding from a number of sources for the restoration of Denver's historic Union Station, the centerpiece of FasTracks, including $28.4 million from the Recovery Act, $59.5 million in other federal grants, and more than $300 million in federal loans.