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Blog: Union Station an Engine for Denver, a Model for America

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Last week, the Denver Post ran an op-ed about the city's Union Station, observing that the past has become the future.

I think that accurately captures the revitalized historic station. Because more than 130 years ago, Denver's Union Station established itself as the heart of that city. And with last Friday's ribbon-cutting ceremony, it reclaimed that spot. Because Union Station, with a new bus facility and rail connections, will significantly improve transportation options in downtown Denver and beyond.

It is once again Denver's transportation hub, and the gateway to one of America's fastest-growing cities.

And, like many modern transportation centers, the integrated access to light rail, Amtrak, and new commuter rail lines with seamless connections to local, regional and intercity bus services have also transformed the city's economy by spurring more than a billion dollars in private sector investment.

Across the street from Union Station, an Atlanta-based company is set to build a new hotel, and they've said they would not have invested in the new project without the redeveloped station. And the same goes for John Plew, an Oregon-based restaurateur who's investing in a new Denver restaurant.

The project has also helped Denver's construction industry rebound after a hard recession and helped add about 3,600 construction jobs in the last year alone.

So you can see why we at DOT were proud to tap into two of our loan programs and other funding sources to invest $1.7 billion in both the station and the RTD's Eagle commuter rail project. But our Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration didn't do it alone. Local leaders got innovative with funding, and they created a model to pay back the loans that can be repeated in other cities and communities.

And it should be repeated. Because across the country--in addition to helping people get where they need to go more easily--stations like Denver's are proving to be magnets for economic development -- for new jobs, new businesses.

The only question is if that kind of economic development can continue. Because the fact is, our transportation system is running out of money. As soon as August, the fund that pays to maintain our roads and bridges could start bouncing checks. And if that happens, it will be nearly impossible for cities like Denver to tackle the projects they need to keep people moving and support economic growth.

That's why we recently sent Congress a bill --GROW AMERICA-- that changes the way we approach transportation, allows us to build more projects like Union Station, and allows more people to participate in building them, too.

In fact, there is a workforce program in our plan that's actually modeled after one we implemented in Denver.

Colorado's Governor John Hickenlooper has been a part of the Union Station project from the ground floor--first as mayor of Denver and now as Governor. And Colorado's U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, and Denver-area U.S. Representative Diana DeGette have also been strong supporters of investing in transportation. I thank them for seeing why we should move forward, why we should build a transportation system for the 21st century, and how we can do that safely and sustainably.

Denver's Union Station is a strong engine for mobility, jobs, and economic growth. It's also a powerful argument for investing in America's transportation infrastructure.

And that's the argument I'll continue making in Washington.


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