Denver transit PPP gets $1bn federal grant

The US Federal Transit Administration said the grant would cover about half of the costs of the public-private partnership, which involves construction of commuter rail lines near Denver, Colorado.

The US Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has agreed to commit $1 billion to the $2.2 billion Eagle public-private partnership (PPP) in Denver, Colorado.

The Eagle project is a first-of-a-kind transit PPP that involves the construction of 30 miles of commuter rail lines, the FTA said in a statement. The project was split into two phases: the 22.8-mile ‘East Corridor’ line connecting downtown Denver with its international airport in the east (phase one) and an 11.2-mile ‘Gold Line’, linking the city with its western suburbs (phase two).

The FTA commitment will cover about half of the project’s costs, according to the statement, and was required to start construction on the ‘Gold Line’ portion of the Eagle PPP.

US Transport Secretary Ray LaHood, who signed the funding agreement on Wednesday, said in a statement that the Eagle PPP has helped to put the Denver area “on a smart path to sustainable growth, while generating thousands of good local jobs”.

Last year, Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) awarded the PPP contract to a private consortium led by Australian investment bank Macquarie Capital and engineering firm Fluor. Macquarie – which at one point owned 90 percent of the equity in the winning consortium – sold its interest in the project at financial close for phase one and no longer has an equity stake in the Eagle PPP.

A subsidiary of UK developer John Laing and Uberior Infrastructure Investments, a division of Lloyds Banking Group, each took over 45 percent of Macquarie’s interest, while Fluor bought the remaining 10 percent, according to Pauletta Tonilas, spokeswoman for RTD.

The Eagle PPP is part of a larger project called FasTracks to develop a 122-mile transit system. The total cost of the Eagle PPP is about $2.2 billion, including both federally eligible and federally non-eligible components, according to the RTD annual report on FasTracks.

In a statement, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock praised the Eagle project as an “example for other public entities on how bringing private sector resources to the table can keep infrastructure projects moving forward”.