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DENVER-The Colorado chapter of the Urban Land Institute on Friday will host its latest workshop on FasTracks, the $4.7-billion transportation initiative that voters will decide in November. FasTracks is believed to be the largest transportation issue in the US this year.

Friday’s roundtable discussion will focus on the Gold Line, which starts in Union Station in Downtown and travels through parts of Arvada, Adams County and Wheat Ridge northwest of Denver. Mike Stepner, a San Diego architect and planner, will be the guest speaker. Stepner was involved with planning the first light rail lines in San Diego more than 20 years ago. Stepner will discuss “how we managed to make it work and where we fell down. We were not perfect.”

As far as lessons learned, “we want to encourage redevelopment around transit stations, but to make it work you have really have a detailed plan,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “Something can look good on paper, but, as always, the devil is in the details. For example, in order to encourage mixed-use development around stations, you must make sure that the area is easy to walk, and not have stations surrounded by busy roads that can‘t be crossed or have huge parking surface parking lots that act as barriers.” One of the huge benefits of new rail lines is not only reducing traffic congestion, but creating the “critical mass” needed for high-density developments around stations, he adds.

Arvada city councilwoman Lorraine Arvada says FasTracks is critical for her community, the entire West side, as well as the entire metro area. “I was just reading an article that says that fuel cells in cars will eventually be the answer to our pollution problems,” she says. “But even if that is true, it won’t solve the problems of congestion. You can’t just continue to build more lanes and lanes of roads. I see FasTracks as a quick, efficient way to move people. And I think that Arvada is already ahead of the curve, because we’re already developing the Olde Town area, which will be served by light rail.”

Indeed, Shelly Cook, a former Arvada city councilwoman who runs a non-profit bus shuttle from Arvada to the Denver International Airport, says FasTracks will help Arvada form “multiple standpoints.” She notes that there will be potentials to redevelop brownfield industrial stops along the lines, greenfields, and established urban areas. “I think what distinguishes the Gold Line is its diversity,” Cook tells GlobeSt.com.

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