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Jeffco, RTD hammer out agreement on property

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By AJ Vicens

Top Jeffco and RTD officials have come to an agreement on the county’s contribution for the end-of-line station of the west corridor light rail station.

The deal — a common pact between governments known as an intergovernmental agreement — should be signed during the March 25 commissioners’ hearings.

Jeffco staff were telling the commissioners not to agree to the deal as late as March 18, based on language in the agreement that did not define clearly what would happen to property donated by Jeffco to the project if RTD were to abandon it.

“The word ‘abandoned’ hadn’t been defined anywhere,” said Kate Newman, a special projects coordinator in the county administrator’s office who has worked on the west corridor negotiations. “We wanted to tie that word to something. Were they referring to light rail, the west corridor, FasTracks? We wanted to make it less broad and try to narrow it down.”

RTD spokesman Scott Reed acknowledged that RTD made the changes to the agreement that Jeffco officials wanted. He added that he understands that lawyers on any side of an agreement like this want to make sure all the bases are covered.

“We aren’t abandoning anything,” Reed said. “And that is very clear in the language of the IGA. I think we have covered all the issues and look forward to moving ahead.”

The recommendation not to sign the agreement was made during the March 18 commissioners’ staff briefings, and Deputy County Administrator Nanette Neelan told the commissioners that “the devil is in the details constantly with RTD,” and that agreeing to work out the meaning of “abandoned” at a later date was asking for trouble.

“RTD should promise to bring light rail here, and if they don’t, we’ll take back what we’ve given,” District 2 Commissioner Kevin McCasky said last week.

McCasky has been out front in an ongoing battle with RTD over service cuts by RTD as the west corridor project ballooned more than $100 million over budget. Jeffco was promised trains at the Courts and Administration Facility every five minutes, but the after cuts, that was changed to every 15 minutes. McCasky and other county leaders negotiated with RTD and over time persuaded the transit agency to agree to triggers based on ridership numbers that would increase train cars and frequencies as demand goes up.

The agreement sets in place Jeffco’s contribution to the west corridor project that was required when FasTracks was approved. Local jurisdictions had to contribute 2.5 percent of the total cost of the project, and Jeffco’s contribution requirement came to about $861,000. Newman said that between land the county is providing to RTD at one-third of market value, constructing a new access road and waiving fees, the county is exceeding the required contribution.

Jeffco also had to go to the city of Golden and ask for rezoning of the official development plan of the government campus to deal with issues related to construction of more parking at the Courts and Administration Facility. Newman said that rezoning was approved by Golden last week.

Construction on county property should begin as early as November 2008 and is estimated to last about 15 months. Newman told the commissioners that agreements will be in place to require written approval from Jeffco on construction changes. Construction will require the loss of some parking spaces, and a plan to deal with that has yet to be finalized.

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.

Tentative schedule for the west corridor project at the Jefferson County Courts and Administration Facility:

• March 2008: IGA signed and rezoning of the courts and administration building.

• Summer 2008: location of temporary parking established.

• Fall/winter 2008: Final agreements and construction begins.

• Winter 2009: Access road constructed.

• Spring 2009: Major construction projects opened, including a parking garage and access road.

• 2013: Light rail service begins at the Taj Mahal.