The hard details of high-speed passenger rail in Colorado - including a spur linking Steamboat Springs and Craig to the I-70 corridor - are due to be figured out during the next year, determining what types of trains will run, where and what that means for potential riders.
The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority kicked off a High-Speed Rail Feasibility Study this week with the help of consultants Transportation Economic and Management Systems, Inc. The study aims to present a feasible plan for Colorado high-speed rail within the next year.
The study will examine high-speed rail on the I-25 and I-70 corridors, as well as spurs to Steamboat Springs and Craig, Aspen, Winter Park, Breckenridge and Central City, Rocky Mountain Rail Authority Chairman and Clear Creek County Commissioner Harry Dale said during a conference call Tuesday.
The $1.5 million study mostly is funded by the Colorado Department of Transportation, which contributed $1.2 million of transit funds from Senate Bill 1, a transportation funding bill passed in 1997. The remainder of the funding will come from members of the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority, which includes Routt County and all of its municipalities.
While Routt County has clearly shown interest in the project, there's no guarantee that it will be linked to any resulting high-speed passenger rail system any time soon, although a much clearer picture will emerge at the study's completion in August 2009.
"We have made absolutely no choices yet as to where stations would be, where alignments would be - that is in fact part of the study process, and that's very important for us to underscore," said Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush, who serves as the county's representative to the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority.
Work this fall will focus on analyzing and developing specific alignment and equipment combinations and then move to developing a feasible implementation plan for one or both of the major corridors next spring, Dale said.
In addition to the cost-benefit relationships between a high-speed rail system, the state as a whole, and its local jurisdictions, the study also will examine benefits to non-riders, including congestion relief and reductions in oil consumption, Dale said.
"We have the potential for having a much lower level of emissions, a much lower level of congestion on the congested I-70 corridor," Mitsch Bush said.
The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority also is working with CDOT for a rail relocation study on the Front Range, aimed at limiting freight traffic running through Denver and better timing it around passenger rail, as well as officials in Wyoming interested in extending potential rail on the I-25 corridor to Cheyenne and possibly Casper, Dale said.
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