BACK ON TRACK: RTD board members approve I-225 light rail project


DENVER | Aurora’s light rail project is officially on track to be built by late 2015.

Regional Transportation District board members unanimously voted July 24 to award the design build contract for the rest of the Interstate 225 FasTracks project to Kiewit Infrastructure Co.

Travelers board a light rail Tuesday morning, July 10, at the Louisiana and Pearl Light Rail Station. The City of Aurora expects to have the I-225 light rail line built out by November 2015 and open to the public in early 2016 after RTD board members officially awarded the construction project to Kiewit Infrastructure Co. on July 24.(Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

The transportation project will connect Aurora to all parts of the city including Downtown Denver and the Denver International Airport, said Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan.

“It really creates the new main street for Aurora,” Hogan said.

The announcement gave city officials reason to rejoice after a grim past few days in Aurora, he said, referring to a stunning mass shooting at Aurora’s Century 16 theater on July 20. He and others said good news is welcome.

“It is fantastic. Obviously it comes at a difficult time, but this is the kind of thing that is really a game-changer for Aurora,” Hogan said.

Kiewit estimates that the design-build proposal for the entire I-225 light-rail line will cost about $350 million. The project will connect the existing Nine Mile station to the Peoria/Smith station in Denver, and the entire line will be 10.5 miles long.

Dozens of people have showed up to RTD’s headquarters over the past month to speak in support of the project at two public hearings. Wendy Mitchell, president of the Aurora Economic Development Council, said that was meaningful.

“I just feel so grateful, and it’s so nice to have so many of our neighbors support us and be here for us,” Mitchell said.

General Manager Phil Washington will now work with Kiewit to finalize the contract, and the city and land owners will work to construct the transit-oriented development projects planned for each of the eight stations on the line, said Tom Tobiassen, RTD board member whose district covers Aurora.

“This is going to drive so much construction and economic development over the next 20 years in Aurora,” he said.

Washington said last month there is money in RTD’s coffers to pay for the Kiewit project.

Since RTD received a $280 million federal loan in December for the Eagle P3 project, which will help build out the East Corridor and Gold Line, enough cash could be available for the entire Aurora rail line, Washington said.

Also, RTD can now afford to pay for Aurora’s light rail project because this year’s revenue projections from the sales tax increase that voters approved in 2004 will be higher than RTD’s original projections for this year, he said.

Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or [email protected]