union station

RTD's new N Line train stopped at Denver's Union Station. (Hannah Metzger)

The Regional Transportation District’s board of directors has concluded contract negotiations with its incoming CEO, with a start date of Nov. 9 and an annual salary of $315,000.

"I look forward to working collaboratively with the great men and women who keep RTD moving 365 days a year, seven days a week, 24 hours a day," said Debra Johnson, whom the board hired last month. “I will stand with the men and women of the organization and have my salary temporarily adjusted as we navigate the year ahead.”

Johnson is the current CEO of Long Beach Transit in Southern California who has 25 years of transportation experience. Paul J. Ballard, who has been RTD’s interim leader since February, received a salary of $350,000. The board approved the contract on Tuesday by a 13-1 vote.

The announcement came one day after the international president of Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents thousands of RTD employees, wrote to the Polis Administration requesting the use of highway funding to fill a budget hole for which the agency is considering hundreds of worker layoffs.

“We have therefore been urging governors to use all of their available tools to maintain transit service and avoid layoffs while we wait for another federal COVID bill. It has been our experience that the best way for states to preserve bus and rail service during temporary funding shortfalls is by flexing federal highway funds for transit,” wrote John A. Costa of the ATU. “Given your long record in support of public transportation, we urge the Colorado Department of Transportation to take advantage of several flexible funding programs offered by the U.S. DOT to fund transit related activities.”

The governor's office did not have an immediate response to the request.

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