Colorado launches study on high-speed rail
August 13, 2008
DENVER ” Cities and counties across Colorado are teaming up with state transportation officials on a study to determine whether a high-speed passenger railway is feasible in the state.
The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority, a coalition of governments and transit agencies, is launching a $1.5 million study that will focus on the Interstate 25 and 70 corridors and possible secondary lines.
About 80 percent of the money for the study will come from a Colorado Department of Transportation grant. The local governments will contribute the rest.
Clear Creek County Commissioner Harry Dale, the authority’s chairman, said in a conference call Tuesday that the study will explore whether high-speed passenger trains are technically, financially and economically feasible.
The goal is to complete the study by next spring.
Dale said the rail authority will coordinate with other agencies and groups already studying ways to improve transportation. One of those studies is by the state Department of Transportation, which is evaluating the feasibility of relocating most freight rail traffic from the Front Range to the eastern plains. That would make more room for passenger trains on the tracks through densely populated areas.
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The authority is also talking to Wyoming officials, who are looking into rail service.
“My goal as chairman of the Rocky Mountain Railway Authority is to produce a very credible study,” Dale said. “We’re really taking a holistic look throughout the state.”
The emphasis will be on collaboration among the more than 45 cities, counties and organizations involved, said Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Busch, a member of the authority’s executive committee. The passenger service could reduce traffic congestion on the highways and vehicle emissions, she added.
Transportation Economics and Management Systems Inc. of Frederick, Md., will prepare the report. Dale said the report will help determine whether it makes sense for Colorado to apply for federal designation as the country’s 11th high-speed rail corridor.
The designation would make Colorado eligible to apply for federal funds.
The authority will study using trains that run between 90 and 250 mph.
“We’ll look at technologies that could be implemented in the next five to 10 years,” Dale said.
Depending on the report’s conclusions, the next step might be assessing specific alignments and station locations. Dale said the consultant might determine that high-speed rail service makes sense only in portions of the I-25 and I-70 corridors.