A recent program by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce on the State of DIA had me reflecting on the long road (or runway) we have traveled to get us where we are today.
There is no question, except to a few hard core critics, that Denver International Airport has become an economic development engine for Colorado. The near future plans for the airport, both air side and land side, make it even more important for our economic stability and quality of life.
I listened to DIA Director Kim Day’s speech remembering the mid 1980s when, as a congressional staff aide, I played advance man and escort to U.S. Rep. Bill Lehman. At the time, he was the chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee and the key to funding DIA construction.
After thorough briefings and a hearty dinner at the historic Buckhorn Exchange, he left Denver agreeing to foot the DIA bill. He had the same vision most of us had how a modern airport fits into a national and international transportation network.
Day moved that vision forward in her speech. She promoted an airport sized to accommodate new generations of larger and quieter aircraft, an attached hotel, a strong international marketing effort and a connection to rail to grow this transportation network even more and advance the entire state’s wellbeing for decades to come. That was her thesis and it is sound.
The RTD rail line to DIA will happen. It will link to the rest of the light rail network and it will make the case stronger for more intercity rail development. Momentum will build for public-private financing around a transit-oriented development philosophy to this network. And future generations in Colorado will live, work and play in neighborhoods locally-sized around rail stations and then connected to the world because of our forward-sighted transportation planning. That’s called vision.