Wednesday, May 27, 2009

ColoRail Filing Suit To Halt Current Union Station Plan

The Colorado Rail Passenger Association, one of the pro-rail advocacy groups in Colorado, is filing a lawsuit aimed at stopping the current plans of the powers at work re-developing Denver Union Station. According to the ColoRail press release,
ColoRail finds the proposed plan short on transportation services that were committed to in the earlier planning processes and published documents. Specific concerns include the lack of expansion capacity for future transportation services, including planned passenger rail on the I-70 and Front Range corridors; insufficient passenger convenience and connectivity; and proposed project design features that are excessively costly to construct, will seriously disturb the neighborhood, and entail unnecessarily high operation and maintenance costs that have yet to be fully explained to the public.
ColoRail got its start 20 years ago when Denver Union Station was threatened with being demolished. The group's original name, Save Our Station, was changed when they accomplished their goal. Their mission has since expanded to advocate state-wide and inter-regional passenger rail service. It seems they're returning to their roots when they seek to preserve the vitality and centrality of Union Station from the greed of land developers who treat rail like an afterthought.

I know that RTD has a real penchant for underestimating demand. In 1995, I cruised the parking lot at I-25 and Broadway forever looking for a parking space, even after emergency arrangements for "unpaved parking" in adjacent lots had been made. They never expected that their baby light rail line would be so wildly popular and their future growth was stunted because of inadequate planning.

That same year of 1995, Denver International Airport opened, replacing the old Stapleton International Airport. It's triumph was that it would likely never run out of concourse space like Stapleton did, as Concourses A through C were straddled on a straight line, connected by a tram system (why not more efficient rail vehicles?) that could be extended as far as necessary to accomodate future concouses farther out. With the forward thinking the planners used, we will be able to accomodate future generations of aircraft beyond the A380.

I can't help recalling Stapleton and RTD's failure to plan as I look at the present plans which freeze off any similar expansion possibilities with two massive ice cubes of buildings. ColoRail is right to file this suit and should be supported. In 50 or 100 years, DIA will definitely be in use. We should be able to say the same about Denver Union Station, but we won't unless these plans are stopped in their tracks.

More about DUS and the future of rail in Colorado

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you are refering to the "wing" buildings, removing those would do nothing to improve the expandability of union station. If protectin the future expandability of union station is the goal of this lawsuit, that train left the station when the pepsi center was built and made it impossible for union station to be a through station. The real problem is the narrow throat at the north end of the station that prevents more trains from getting in.

Steve Walden said...

I was referring to the "wing" buildings. Expandability is always possible, but cost will prohibit growth if we have to remove those ice cubes. If we build on this space, how on earth are we going to be able to expand the tracks without layering them? Building additional track space above or below is prohibitively expensive, especially when you consider that we have the land right now. That land would be golden for I-70 Rail or anything the RMRA concludes is needed, which I'm assuming will also recommend the expansion of both DUS and it's lead tracks.