Community members intrigued by high-speed rail system envisioned for Colorado | SteamboatToday.com

Community members intrigued by high-speed rail system envisioned for Colorado

Attendees of a green car show check out Jeff Troeger's electric Nissan Leaf on Tuesday night at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. The car show was followed by a panel discussion on the future of transportation in Colorado.

— The crowd gawked at an old Mercedes that runs on recycled vegetable oil and huddled around a shiny white Nissan Leaf that reportedly costs just $0.02 per mile to run.

But the dozens of people who traveled to the Steamboat Springs Community Center on Tuesday night for a green car show and transportation talk appeared to be more intrigued by the possibility of a high-speed rail system in Colorado.

David Krutsinger, the transit and rail program manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation, was on hand to discuss the latest studies that looked into the feasibility of a 340-mile high-speed rail system that would take travelers from Jefferson County to the Eagle County Airport and from Pueblo to Fort Collins.

CDOT spent $5 million studying a potential rail system and concluded it could be done in the future.

However, the $30.1 billion price tag will keep the project from becoming a reality for the foreseeable future.

“The funding piece is the hardest piece to crack, there’s just no question about it,” state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a speaker on the transportation panel, told the audience.

Mitsch Bush added she probably wouldn’t live to see the rail system completed.

Krutsinger also has suggested the rail system could be decades away.

“To do this thing in the future, maybe in 20 to 50 years, you need to get interest generated and in the pipeline now,” Krutsinger told The Denver Post earlier this year.

Talk about the rail system came during a panel discussion hosted by the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.

Although the speakers touched on several other forms of alternative transportation, the audience at the community center appeared to be most interested by the rail system.

One woman asked how feasible it would be in an area of Colorado that is subject to severe winter weather.

Another man suggested that if it didn’t come all the way to Steamboat, it wouldn’t really mean anything to him.

“How is all of this going to affect the Yampa Valley?” he asked.

Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, said having a rail system along with a new public transportation route that would connect it to Northwest Colorado is “going to affect us both in our quality of life and the choices we have.”

She said it could make it easier for tourists to come to Steamboat as well as for residents here to make their trips to the Front Range.

“This is very long term,” she said.

Another audience member asked about the rail system’s potential impact on wildlife.

The talks about the high-speed rail system were preceded by a presentation about the ways Steamboat Springs Transit has turned to alternative fuels in recent years to cut down on operating costs.

Transit Manager Jonathan Flint went through a long list of things his department has done to save on energy expenses, ranging from the purchase of new diesel hybrid buses to using mostly recycled water when washing the buses.

“Our budget has stayed relatively flat while the cost of fuel and components has gone up,” Flint said. “We’ve had to enact quite a few cost-cutting measures to stay within budget.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10