Projects: Airport and rail line
Denver just loves itself some cost overruns.

Take Denver International Airport. One of the busiest airports in the world, its peaked architecture and automated baggage and solar energy technology made it a wonder among its contemporaries. It was also an economic disaster when it opened in 1995. Design changes, strikes and problems with its baggage system put it 16 months behind schedule and, at $4.8 billion, nearly $2 billion over budget.

Not surprisingly, the city's public transportation initiative FasTracks finds itself in a similar state. A comprehensive plan for light rail, commuter rail and bus rapid transit expansion throughout Denver, Aurora and Boulder, the project was supposed to cost $4.7 billion and be paid for by a sales-tax increase approved in 2004 and implemented the next year.

That just didn't happen. By 2007, the project reported a $1.5 billion overrun. That increased to $1.8 billion by 2010 and, by the time the economic downturn took its toll, finally expanded to $2.5 billion.

The Department of Transportation eventually kicked the project $1 billion to finish up a pair of light rail lines, but it's still nearly $2 billion short of what it needs to finish within the next decade. Under the current budget, the final leg of FasTracks won't be complete until 2042. The regional transit district in charge of the project is considering a ballot issue this fall for another sales tax increase. As overruns mount and rail plans are reconsidered, however, FasTracks is steadily drifting into the slow lane.

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