The city of Denver became what it is today because of a railroad. After the Denver Pacific Railroad connected the city to the Transcontinental Railroad in 1870, thousands of tourists and millions of pounds of freight were hauled into the city in the first month, and the population grew by a reported 100 residents per day.
Railroads were so revered that Colorado Territorial Governor John Evans observed, "Colorado without railroads is comparatively worthless."
Yesterday, I saw a modern-day extension of Denver’s rich rail history when I toured construction on the city's latest rail artery, the FasTracks West Rail transit line. And just as the early Denverites cheered the arrival of the Denver Pacific Railroad, the enthusiasm in yesterday's crowd was electric.
It’s not hard to see why. The West Rail Line is 85% complete, and the mock-ups and progress to date indicate a beautiful, state-of-the-art transit system. The new line will allow tourists and commuters to spend less time in traffic and less money on gas. That's something everyone can appreciate.
Not only will the FasTracks program provide an efficient and cost-effective way to get to and from work, school or the airport; but it is also creating jobs right now. There are more than 500 men and women working on the West Rail Line alone. FasTracks estimates that its plan will eventually provide work for 4,200 others.
This is a perfect example of what hard-working men and women have done and will do in connecting Denver to the region and to the world.
The Federal Transit Administration's investment in the Denver community doesn't end at rails and stations. To ensure that Denver's citizens participate as fully as possible in the jobs created by this work, the FTA recently awarded nearly half a million dollars toward the Denver Regional Workforce Initiative Now. This effort brings local transportation, education, and business leaders together to train and hire men and women eager to work on Denver’s transportation projects and find careers in transit.
Denver's legacy of railroad prosperity reaches back from 1867 through today, and with FasTracks' plans to expand area transit, Denver's rail legacy promises to stretch far into the future. This is exactly what President Obama was talking about when he called for an America “built to last.”
But we can't be content to see this progress in just one city. All across America, there is work to be done on projects like the West Rail Line. More and more Americans are looking for greater choices in transportation today, and it’s important we provide the funding to ensure transit remains one of the available choices. Now is the time to connect people who need work with the work we need to do improving our nation's transit centers, highways, railways, airports and ports.