Colorado study tags best routes for high-speed rail |

Colorado study tags best routes for high-speed rail

DENVER – A new report says high-speed rail is feasible in Colorado and suggests further study of two routes, one linking Denver and three other Front Range cities, and the other linking the Denver airport with ski areas to the west.The 18-month study for the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority, made public this week, estimated the total cost of the system at $21.1 billion if it were built today. The study said the system could be operated without public subsidies. However construction would likely be funded through a mix of public and private money, said Harry Dale of the rail authority.”That is the single biggest challenge in all of this is to come up with the capital to build the system,” Dale said Tuesday.Dale said benefits including less congestion and increased economic development would outweigh the costs.Both routes would use electric trains that could average 90 to 100 mph on the Front Range route and 60 to 70 on the east-west route because of the steep grades and tight curves in the mountains.The Front Range route would run from Fort Collins in the north, through Denver and Colorado Springs and on to Pueblo in the south. It would follow the best available route and not be bound to the existing Interstate 25 corridor, which links the same cities.The east-west route would run from Denver International Airport to the Eagle County Airport west of Vail. It would follow a combination of the existing I-70 corridor and new rights of way, with about 12 intermediate stops plus spurs to the gambling towns of Central City and Black Hawk and to the Breckenridge ski area.The study said extending the lines north from Fort Collins to Cheyenne, Wyo., south from Pueblo to Trinidad or west from the Eagle County Airport to Grand Junction would greatly increase costs with only a small increase in ridership.The study estimated the one-way trip from the Denver airport to Vail would cost $40 and take two hours. It said a one-way trip from the Denver airport to Colorado Springs would cost $32 and take an hour, and a one-way trip from the Denver airport to Fort Collins would cost $30 and take an hour.The study said the next steps are developing a state rail plan, determining how to integrate the high-speed rail routes with the Denver area’s light rail system, coordinating with freight railroads, requesting a high-speed rail corridor designation from the Federal Railroad Administration and broadening support for the project.The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority is composed of 45 counties, municipalities and other organizations along both the I-70 and I-25 corridors.The $1.5 million study was funded by the state Department of Transportation and members of the authority. It was conducted by Transportation Economics & Management Systems Inc., Quandel Consultants LLC and GBSM Inc.

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