Rail service possible

Steamboat, Craig join Rocky Mountain Rail Authority

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— The cities of Steamboat Springs and Craig have joined a group exploring high-speed, passenger rail service that could include a spur extending from South Routt to Craig.

The Hayden Town Board also has voted to join the multi-jurisdictional governmental entity known as the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority. Hayden's membership will become official once it's ratified by the authority, which is exploring the possibility of modern rail track along the Interstate 70 and Interstate 25 corridors. The system could continue into Wyoming and potentially tie in to similar rail networks already in the works in Utah and New Mexico. It is anticipated the I-70 stretch would include two major spurs: one to Aspen and another through South Routt, Steamboat and Craig.

Routt County already has joined the authority. County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said she is glad that all other incorporated municipalities in Routt and Moffat counties have decided to join.

"As with any board, the more representation you have from a region, the stronger that region's voice is," Mitsch Bush said.

Doug Lehnen, mayor pro-tem of Castle Rock and that city's representative to the rail authority, agreed.

"It's very important to have both county and city municipalities involved because it's a combination of both that it will affect," Lehnen said. "I know exactly what I want out of Castle Rock itself."

The first step for the rail authority is a $1.6 million feasibility study, being paid for by a $1.2 million grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation and matching funds from the member jurisdictions.

"Hopefully, by mid-April, we'll have that contract finalized and start the study," Lehnen said.

The study is to take no longer than 18 months. The biggest question it will answer is cost, which one rough estimate puts at $11.3 billion. But Lehnen said it also will address rail technologies, ridership and station locations.

"The feasibility study will show us what we need to do," Mitsch Bush said. "If the study shows that it's feasible, then we can move to the next level. If I had to bet, if I was a betting person, I would guess that there's some level of feasibility."

Getting on track

The speed with which a high-speed, passenger rail system could be installed will depend on how much money is available and when.

But neither Lehnen nor Mitsch Bush is predicting the system could come on line quickly. Mitsch Bush said a realistic timetable for the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority's work likely is 15 to 20 years.

The Colorado Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel recently released a report estimating that without a new source of funding, there will be a $51 billion funding shortage to sustain Colorado's existing transportation infrastructure by 2030.

The panel also identified new sources of funding, but Lehnen said Gov. Bill Ritter has made health care and education higher priorities for the time being.

"A lot of us are thinking that we might not see any money until 2011," Lehnen said.

Another possibility is federal funding, which is why the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority hopes its feasibility study will help it earn a High Speed Rail Corridor Designation from the Federal Railroad Administration. The federal rail authority already has awarded 10 such designations, but only plans to award one more. Colorado is competing with Texas for the final spot.

"If we can get that designation, that will mean money," Mitsch Bush said.

Mitsch Bush said passenger rail service would provide many benefits to the Yampa Valley, including reduced pollution and traffic.

"If we had high-speed rail, that would certainly contribute to relieving congestion," Mitsch Bush said.

She noted that sitting in traffic leads to reductions in worker productivity and less time spent with family.

"It's a cost to our businesses, a cost to our economy and a cost to our country," Mitsch Bush said. "Transit and rail solve these problems. : It's harder to think long-term, but we have to."

Comments

colowoodsman 6 years, 6 months ago

Roll up yer pant legs- it's too late to save yer boots!!! I can think of a lot better ways to spend the money. This is a BIG GAMBLE with taxpayer money. What a waste!!!

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mtroach 6 years, 6 months ago

What's your idea's to stem the traffic? More lanes?

If the state, and federal govt. need partners in the building of this transportation system why not look to the major ski area players. Interwest, and Vail will benifit from easing their customers journey to the slopes, how about asking them to pony up some funding toward this end. With a $2 transportation tax on every lift ticket, our worldwide "guests" can help to pay for this.

When I-70 is closed, the train will be running, eventually this type of service could work to ease conjestion, and make travel around the state predictable, safe and affordable. Don't want to risk traveling to denver in a blizzard and being stranded in Kremmling, or in a ditch somewhere. Ride the train.

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bloggyblog 6 years, 6 months ago

blog agree's with mtroach. the best ideas are often the ones some people say "can't be done". blog thinks Diane Mitsch Bush is a sharp minded gal.

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David Hill 6 years, 6 months ago

I would give the chances of passenger rail service to the area as being determined financially feasible as less than zero. Passenger rail has a hard enough time showing economic feasibility between high density urban areas in flat terrain where construction costs are lower. The Federal Transit Administration has recently turned down a request in Northern Virginia for $900 million in federal funding for an extension of the Metrorail system in one of the most congested areas of the country due to concerns over the ridership and financial viability of the project.

Given the low population centers and the extremely high cost of construction to support the geometry needed for high speed rail through the Colorado mountains I would consider it a waste of tax payer money to even study such an unrealistic idea. The cost per ride would be astronomical to serve the Routt County area.

Coming up with realistic funding solutions to address the serious transportation and infrastructure needs of the state and the nation as a whole would be a much more appropriate use of the study dollars.

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colowoodsman 6 years, 6 months ago

Hey- why don't they do a feasability study of moving Hahn's Peak to the Court House lawn for 'another roadside tourist attraction'??? Or maybe we should plant banana trees on reclaimed stripmines so we don't have to import them.

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SilverSpoon 6 years, 6 months ago

Let texas have it: They may not have the ski areas, affordable housing, or force local workers out of town. But texas does have millions and millions more people than NW colorado.
A train is too useful to waste on such a small community. Lets let the rail get through the eisenhower tunnel first(ETA 10-20yrs), then hire a consultant to create a report on the feasability of the feasablity of a study to address the feasability of a rail.

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SilverSpoon 6 years, 6 months ago

Didn't our favorite city realtors purchse the land next to B&K and accross from the Depot in hopes for a station for a rail from craig?

That plot of land had some pretty sweet dirt jumps, fortunately(sarcastic), someone could have got hurt and sued the city; just like the pirates pub will.

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David Hill 6 years, 6 months ago

Building a rail line is not a new idea. There is significant experience and a record of previous studies to draw from to know that trying to provide rail service to a remote low population area with only seasonal demand is dead on arrival. If the northeast corridor which has the highest density in the country can't support passenger rail service on existing track without huge subsidies, you don't need to spend a milliion dollars to know that some projects don't even deserve further consideration.

Regarding mtroach's comment, sometimes more lanes is the only cost feasible alternative for solving transportation capacity problems. In our largest urban areas with high density, public transit can be effective and provide another alternative. But in more sparsely populated areas, unless you can reduce demand through congestion pricing, adding additional roadway capacity is generally going to be the most feasible alternative, particularly when you consider the operating cost for other alternatives.

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SilverSpoon 6 years, 6 months ago

trafficman, I agree with you. You should become a politico and offer some common sense to the problems, and that there is no magical solution. Steamboat is running the same course as atlanta, houston, and any other sprawling metropolis. Everyone moves out of town, and expects to drive right back in. Other metropolises can put roads in any direction to create ways around the problem. In steamboat, we have 1 problem, and no way around. The bottle neck at down town may backup, but in reality it isn't that bad. Long distance travel to hayden and craig is actually easy; no cross traffic, no lights, so once out of the city, it is smooth sailing. In theory, the transit center was placed in a good spot, if people used it. Lets face it, a car is for nonstop door to door travel. At anyrate, a long distance rail would only be good if we could corral all of craig, and make them make our beds, and wash our dishes. Otherwise, it'd be an empty train to nowhere.

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corduroy 6 years, 6 months ago

imagine how much we'd be saving in gas and our environment! I'd take the train into town all the time!! I know several Craigians that work in Steamboat and this would certainly be great for all our commuters.. especially since more and more of us cannot afford to stay living in town! You want workers right? A better way to get them into town. I never EVER see more than one head in cars coming into town M-F.. not saying I'm not guilty either, but no one carpools! We try to at least 3 times a week :)

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bloggyblog 6 years, 6 months ago

Blog thinks our transportation plan needs to be farsighted. minor traffic inconviences aside, the real issue is how do we ween ourselves from our oil dependency and build a sustainable transportation infrastructure. blog believes in good old american ingenuity. thats where we've always excelled. imagine if we put our resources and technology into sustainable alternative transportation. the future is all about alternative energy and the U.S. should be leading the way!

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dave reynolds 6 years, 6 months ago

nice blog speaking in thrid person.why..your ideas are good but why in the thrid person

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MtnWarlock 6 years, 6 months ago

paddlefisher, I lived next to a paranoid psycho that talked third person. Even when he was alone, he wasn't! He was a good guy over all. 20 years ago, a guy named Russ Arkind tried to get rail service to Steamboat but, he failed in his efforts. He has long since passed this world. I just wonder what kind of rider numbers would have to look like to constitute a profit in doing this? Cool idea if it can work out!

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colowoodsman 6 years, 6 months ago

Are all our political leaders blondes? I did a quick feasability study and it would be cheaper to give everyone in Colorado a check for $1,000 than to build this rail system. Seriously though, I'm sure Texas will win because it is so much cheaper to build on rolling hills than mountainous terrain and their polititians have a lot more pull than ours. I just hope we havn't put any money into this thing.

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colowoodsman 6 years, 6 months ago

mtroach- a $2 or even $5 tax on lift tickets is a great idea! This could help solve a number of problems all at once. It would cut back the number of tourists polutting the valley, open up some housing for locals, and help eliminate the need for cheap (illegal) labor. However local skiers should NOT be required to pay it.

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bloggyblog 6 years, 6 months ago

everyday worldwide oil consumption grows exponentially. oil is not a renewable resource. an economy based on oil dependency is not a smart long term outlook for America. time to pull our heads out of the sand. studies on economic feasability for trains are archaic. as we near peak oil production and oil consumption continues to grow exponentially, the price is going to skyrocket. we should take a proactive stance and embrace alternative energy NOW. trains might not be the answer to all our problems but technology has come a long way since the steam engines of our grandparents and their a step in the right direction. p.s. paddlefisher, why does blog post in the third person? blog asks you, why does the earth rotate the sun? why is the sky blue? why is your shoelace untied? ah,ha blog made you look!!

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SilverSpoon 6 years, 6 months ago

SilverSpoon thinks the new rail is to help get coal to market faster. This is coal country, and the county commissioners are all about the environment(mainly tree hugging), but the environmental impact checks towards education, really benefit our community in the short term. Did you notice the superfund site at leadville, heavy metals waiting to be released into the river? Hopefully we can get superfund dollars here in routt and moffat county. Cha Ching. I look forward to a shorter ski season, and a longer biking season. Steamboat is the last ski resort to adopt the 100% wind power, with a lousy 3% still. Steamboat put up a renewable energy kiosk at the new traffic circle, the solar panel powering the light, is blocked by trees. What a joke.

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