Land cruising: RTD buying up small parcels of land for light-rail construction through Aurora

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AURORA | The Conoco gas station that Larry Rushing has owned for 17 years at the intersection of Interstate 225 and East Colfax Avenue will be leveled in a few months to make room for the new FasTracks light-rail line.

And Rushing couldn’t be happier about it.

“I’ve been dying to get out of there,” Rushing said. The economy hasn’t been good to Rushing, and over the past decade, he said he’s lost about $600,000 trying to keep the doors open and gas pumps running. He hadn’t been able to sell the property because the Regional Transportation District has put a “hold” on it. Now, RTD has the money to buy it, and Rushing said the property could sell for more than $2 million.

RTD board members approved a Right of Way plan for the I-225 light-rail line at a board meeting in September, which identified the parcels of land expected to be acquired by RTD to build out the line.

Rushing’s business is likely the only one that’s going to be fully acquired and demolished, said Tom Tobiassen, RTD board member whose district covers Aurora.

“It’s a pretty easy project because there’s so little private land that needs to be acquired. It’s mostly all slivers (of property),” he said.

There are more than 100 parcels of land all along the light-rail line that need to be acquired by RTD. The light-rail line will stretch along the I-225 corridor from the existing Nine Mile station to the Peoria/Smith station and is expected to be open to riders by 2016.

The slivers of property that will be bought by RTD will make way for new streets, parking lots, train tracks or utility lines, Tobiassen said.

Property owners are usually understanding about the acquisitions, he said.

“A lot of times it’s a huge benefit for a property owner to have a transit station right next to their place,” he said. The light-rail line, along with the Transit Oriented Developments that will be constructed at each station, could also raise the value of land, he said.

The I-225 rail line will be constructed by Kiewit Infrastructure Co. for about $350 million, which includes the price of the design contract. Kiewit officials are still working on designing the project and determining exactly what needs to happen with each parcel of property.

“The contractors are trying to draw those lines,” said Kevin
Flynn, a spokesman for RTD. “We don’t want to acquire anything we don’t need. Money is tight, and if we don’t have to buy an inch of land that we don’t need, we’re not going to buy it.”

RTD has a Right of Way budget that is specifically allocated for paying for property, paying appraisers to value the property, and paying for property owners’ relocation expenses, Flynn said. All of the property owners will soon receive a form called a Notice of Intent to Acquire from RTD, and they will then have 90 days to get their property appraised. RTD also does a separate appraisal, and then the seller and the buyer negotiate a price.

No residences are expected to be demolished in the Right of Way plan, Flynn said. “A lot of property that’s going to be acquired for this is vacant already,” he said.

RTD is allowed to buy a property under the laws of eminent domain, a tool used often by governments to build highways and transit systems for the greater good of the public, Tobiassen said.

 

Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or [email protected]

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rippowam
rippowam
8 years ago

Good job. The use of common sense and planning = a more efficient project and budget compliance.