Can Atlanta learn from Denver?
That’s the question posed by AJC reporter Ariel Hart when she went west to take a look at what lessons the transportation tax passed out there may provide for us.
If voters in the 10-county metro Atlanta region approve a penny sales tax next year to raise $7 billion over 10 years for transportation, they will be treading new ground, Hart writes. But Denver has done it before, with a 122-mile “FasTracks” rail transit expansion, plus 18 miles of rapid bus service, approved in 2004.
While the promise of FasTracks has some big fans in Denver among commuters and employers, its failings regarding cost and timetable also offer harsh lessons, Hart writes.
In Denver, FasTracks now has a $2 billion deficit, and some projects may be 25 years behind schedule, Hart writes. Cost estimates approved by voters in 2004 stood at $4.7 billion, but rose to $6.8 billion. On the revenue side, estimates over 30 years went from $13.7 billion in 2004 to $8 billion.
“You’ve got a situation where you have winners and losers,” said Erik Hansen, former mayor of Thornton, Colo., a small town in the northern Denver suburbs where voters are furious that they won’t get the train service they were promised in the 2004 vote for FasTracks.
Hart details some of the potential lessons for us. With our vote coming next year, it’s an important read.
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- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat
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