Cautionary Budgeting for Colorado Hyperloop Because of DIA and RTD

Budgeting for massive projects like airports and regional surface transportation networks are never easy. Traditionally, these transit services are a financed because they are a public service. A good example of this is with RTD’s Denver Union Station project via the Denver Business Journal.

Regional Transportation District will celebrate the completion of the $480 million project that will form the hub of a transit network spanning the Denver metro area. Commuters will start rolling into the station on Monday, May 12.

“We’re ahead of schedule and under budget,” Jerry Nery, RTD’s project manager for the effort, said Friday during a media sneak peek at the project.

Sounds inspirational, but now take a look at the front page article on the Denver Post telling of a muted panic of the DIA project.

The estimated cost of Denver International Airport’s showcase project is climbing again, this time to as much as $730 million when “related” costs are included. On Monday, airport spokeswoman Stacey Stegman confirmed that overall project costs could grow 5 percent to 10 percent.

Read more: The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/#ixzz30IEMtMHa

Clearly these two projects are different, but because of the DIA project turning into a development for development’s sake project (looking at the pointless hotel), it will negatively affect the Colorado Hyperloop’s chance at being funded through the legislature. Seriously, why should the City of Denver fund something like this:

““We have a smaller range of things that can be value-engineered,” she said. “It’s not like we can lop off another floor of the hotel again.”
Day said DIA is leaning on the construction companies to help the airport keep costs as low as possible. DIA officials also reviewing the finishes in the hotel to see if there’s anything that can be trimmed from the budget.

Colorado Hyperloop and the Denver Station

Denver will be critical in a front range hyperloop. It has the highest population, the busiest airport, and  possibly the most complex urban planning and laws. The precise location for a hyperloop in the city is of extreme importance. The incredible speed that the pods travel dictate a strait hyperloop shot into the city.  In my head, I thought it would be appropriate to put the hyperloop station next to I-25. That would also put it approximately next to Union Station, the epicenter of all public transportation in metro Denver and regionally.

The images of the recently updated Union Station are breathtaking.  The  platforms are totally futuristic. Unfortunately, the train/rail technology is totally not futuristic.  When Amtrak starts using the facility, as 9News reported,  it will once again feel like a hub of opportunity and possibility.

The “other” rail and transportation hub in Denver is nearing Completion. The RTD’s East Rail Line, from Union Station to DIA is said to be 60% complete. DIA’s unnamed station has some serious baggage. The project has taken a life on its own. First, is the fact that it wasn’t built when the airport was built. Second, is that the managers of DIA and the developers of DIA seem to be tapping into public funds at their own accord. The Denver Post wrote an eye opening piece outlining the underbelly of this mega transportation infrastructure.

“The $544 million price tag for Denver International Airport’s showcase hotel and train terminal construction project does not include at least $128 million in what airport management calls “additional related” costs, putting its real cost 34 percent over the $500 million budget proposed three years ago.

As the cost of the project rose, airport officials have insisted it remains on or close to budget. But in order to do that, they have excluded related costs and apparently cut spending in other critical areas. During the past two years, DIA management slashed more than $200 million from the airport’s runway-repair budget and other long-term maintenance projects, a Denver Post investigation found.”

Read more: Denver airport cuts maintenance as costs of showcase project rise – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_25256976/denver-airport-cuts-maintenance-costs-showcase-project-rise#ixzz2uoWSXXWN
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Seriously, why build a pointless hotel when it will take money out of the runway-repair budget? I highly recommend the article. It touches on the interplay between DIA staff, Airlines, the Denver City Council and former employees. It ends on the quote:

‘It’s either a visionary project or a lesson for the rest of us.’

Hopefully, the Colorado Hyperloop will never be like the DIA project. But the echos of 1995, and DIA’s missteps are still sailent on this final upgrade to the DIA’s mega project.  http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/19/us/mistake-or-modern-marvel-denver-airport-set-to-open.html .