Railroad linking Steamboat to I-70 studied


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.

- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203

or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com


mtroach 8 years, 9 months ago

This is a great idea. Anything that can ease conjestion on the i-70 corridor and lower our dependence on gas for transportation is well overdue.


Steve Lewis 8 years, 9 months ago

Thanks, Commisioner Mitsch-Bush for recognizing the importance of rail and pursuing it aggressively. A passenger rail spur to Steamboat is critical to our future economy. The writing is now on the wall for the rest of us - air travel reducing in volume with great increases in cost.

Regional air service is suffering even more around the nation. Its a reasonable possibility that we will again lose air service here. We have no choice but to shape train service as a way visitors can enjoy Steamboat. Speeding up rail service will be key for us to compete with the I-70 resorts, but any passenger rail would be a good step for NW Colorado. We recently dedicated a 2% local lodging tax to subsidize air service. We should be even more proactive with rail service.

Colorado should also focus on high speed interstate passenger rail service. We've used Amtrak to visit family in Florida and PA. But today the trip takes longer: 2 1/2 days to Jacksonville, FL and 2 days to Philly, PA.. Each from Granby. By rail, one now gets to FL via Chicago!


carlyle 8 years, 9 months ago

I love it. The County Commisioners have decided "NO" to growth, and "YES" to some sort of rail transportation. Unfortunately, the population of Routt County would have to grow by a factor of one hundred over the next ten years to justify light rail. How bizarre...


David Hill 8 years, 9 months ago

If you think the subsidy for air travel is signficant wait until you see what the public subsidy would need to be to support passenger rail service into NW colorado.


trump_suit 8 years, 9 months ago

Europe and Asia have both successfully utilized high speed rail systems for their transportation needs for decades. With fuel prices continuing to rise, and airlines failing, isn't it time to consider these kinds of alternatives?

I think that these kinds of subsidies are appropriate government responses to help develop infrastructure. While it may yet prove to be cost prohibitive, I personally support these kinds of investments by our local and state goverment.

The larger a rail system is, the more cost effective it can be. Imagine being able to book trips east or west directly from Steamboat without having to use your personal vehicle, alpine taxi, or the expensive Hayden airfares. This solution is at least 10 years out, but should be a serious consideration for our future transportation needs.


Scott Wedel 8 years, 9 months ago

I'll do that survey for $100K. It is cheaper and more energy efficient to run buses than rail. Rail needs to be competing against congested roads to be viable so it is not viable in this area. Even the I-70 corridor won't be viable because the congestion is in the middle of the drive and the cars fan out to too many final destinations in the mountains and Front Range.

Rail works in big cities where it can link densely populated small cities and suburbs to the center of a big city where car traffic is a mess.

Money please.

It would be neat as purely a tourism scenic adventure if there could be a weekly train.


Steve Lewis 8 years, 9 months ago

Commercial air service here is subsidized now, so its already on the margin.

There are obstacles, but I think there will be an I-70 train sooner than projected. The effort to get a rail spur here versus repacking tourists into a bus (at Vail?) is a smart effort in my opinion.


Fred Duckels 8 years, 9 months ago

When I venture into a new area I go in on a small scale and test the water. If things work out I escalate to a level that I feel comfortable with and the market will support. I have no safety net and excuses are not acceptable. When considering public transportation I think the same principals should apply. We have a bus system that has had nearly 15 years and still seems empty. By city estimates the cost per passenger mile is over $4.00, the park and ride is virtually empty. I think that before we dream too much we should get our existing system to work. It needs to prove out or we need to assess the situation and face reality. In my business we have two rules. 1.No excuses 2. No finger pointing. I see no reason why the same should not apply here. I see no reason to buy a new bike when we have not learned to ride our old one.


Steve Lewis 8 years, 9 months ago

Fred may be on the right track and I may be on the wrong track.

I agree rail today is a marginal alternative - my 1st post in this thread describes how impossibly inconvenient rail has become. But where Fred and I may diverge is that I'm expecting cost increases of traveling to seriously affect our transportation choices in 10 years. Particularly the option to fly.

Fred will be on target if our transportation choices in 10 years are the same as they are today.


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