Cal Marsella’s Impact on Arvada


by Shelley Cook

Last week RTD dedicated the train platforms at Union Station in memory of former General Manager Cal Marsella. Among many accomplishments, the plaque notes that Cal is considered the ‘Father of FasTracks.’ Less known is his influence on Arvada’s transportation outcomes — and prospects for the CLRC/Ralston Road neighborhoods.

Dedication plaque — click to enlarge text

Cal came to RTD in the mid-1990s, a challenging time, with turmoil on the board and restive constituencies. Here in Arvada many were deeply unhappy about what they viewed as a lack of planning and service for the area. Just months before Cal arrived, a hundred residents had packed a small meeting room at the Arvada Center, angry at “The Missing Link” in the District’s transit plan. Indeed, the agency’s future transit map showed nothing, a gaping hole, between the West Corridor along 13th Avenue and US 36 to the north.

A consummate professional, Cal dealt equally with his board members and the concerns of their Districts. But he quickly grew to treasure Arvada’s newest board member, Terri Binder, marveling at her native political sense, caring personality, and unimpeachable character.

And he liked Arvada, especially what he saw as the community’s can-do attitude. That fit his approach, too; Cal was an unusually open sort, willing to consider new ideas, unshackled by popular wisdom. Before Cal came along Terri had worked to get the Skyride AA bus service going, the first time that Arvada was connected to DIA by transit. Now with Cal at the helm she could study all sorts of changes to improve the community’s bus service, and agency staff would work collaboratively to flesh them out.

Then came the big feat: a Corridor, what planners and politicos call ‘a line on the map,’ the condition precedent for any major investment in the transportation world. It was our Gold Line. (Originally the Beer Line, but Arvada historian Lois Lindstrom Kennedy quickly put the kibosh on that name – no, it would instead commemorate the first documented gold find in Colorado, right here in Arvada, next to the Corridor’s right of way.) Cal’s sunny nature and conviction about the possibilities gave RTD staff members the wherewithal to find an approach whose numbers worked. And Terri’s skillfulness on the board brought the line to approval.

Some years later, when RTD’s revenues plummeted after 9/11, the Skyride from Arvada to DIA was imperiled. FasTracks was yet to be passed; not only would we lose the service, its loss might damage the standing of the Gold Line in the same corridor. Cal, approached by the community to consider an alternative – a public-private shuttle dubbed the A-Line – said in typical fashion, “Let’s give it a whirl!” It was a response that captured him, his outlook and readiness to make things happen, perfectly.

Shelley Cook is a former Arvada City Council member and General Manager for Ride Provide, the operator of the A-Line shuttle.

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One Response to Cal Marsella’s Impact on Arvada

  1. CHARLES AULT says:

    What a wonderful recounting of a major piece of history of Old Town Arvada. Shelley, you are becoming the Lois Lindstrom Kennedy of our time. Thanks!

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