Funding Transit Projects Responsibly
Phillip A. Washington is being honored as a Champion of Change for his time and effort developing innovative ways to help grow and expand the transportation industry.
Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) is known for taking innovative approaches toward completing transit projects. Our Eagle P3 project and Workforce Initiative Now (WIN) program have resulted in the largest transit public-private partnership in the country that includes a unique workforce development program embedded in the project. RTD utilized the expertise of financial and legal advisors to prepare and distribute a Request for Proposals to design, build, finance, operate and maintain two complete commuter rail lines, a segment of another rail line, and a commuter rail maintenance facility, and to supply the commuter rail vehicles needed for the Eagle P3 (Public Private Partnership) project. In just three years, RTD was able to bring this innovative project from concept to contract, last year executing a 34-year agreement with a comprehensive team of private partners.
The Eagle P3 project is also the first project to implement the regional WIN program, created by RTD. This program identifies, assesses, trains, and places community members, including military veterans, into careers in transportation and mixed-use development projects, which, in turn, grows the local workforce and strengthens the economy.
When RTD first started to recognize the financial challenges due to the escalation in construction materials costs and the recession, we began to pursue a public-private partnership (P3) to implement part of the FasTracks transit expansion program. As one of three transit agencies accepted into the Federal Transit Administration’s Public-Private Partnership Pilot Program (Penta P), and the only one that completed the program, RTD was able to leverage assets into a successful $2.1 billion P3 project.
The Eagle P3 project will create some 4,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs during construction. The two world-class teams that competed for the Eagle P3 project contract proposed many alternative technical concepts (ATCs), many of which are being incorporated into the project. The structure of the agreement also transfers some of RTD’s risk to the private sector and includes incentives for exceeding RTD’s requirements on safety, cleanliness, on-time performance, etc., and penalties for not meeting the requirements. One of the biggest benefits of the Eagle P3 project is that it has shown how the transportation industry can optimize the three-legged financing stool when implementing projects: federal funds, local funds and private funds.
RTD's Eagle P3 project and Workforce Initiative Now program have become a national model for agencies looking for enterprising ways to complete infrastructure projects sooner rather than later while also building a workforce for the short-term and long-term. We are very proud of what we are accomplishing here at RTD that may benefit other transit agencies.
Phillip A. Washington is the General Manager of Denvers Regional Transportation District