Cost of rail line rises to $160 million |

Cost of rail line rises to $160 million

John Colson

The cost of building a valleywide rail system could be nearly twice the cost estimated by the Colorado Department of Transportation in 1995, according to the organization studying the issue.

The Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority released a statement Tuesday estimating it would cost $160 million to build a rail system from West Glenwood Springs to the Brush Creek Road intersection. CDOT estimated four years ago the project would cost $85 million.

Project manager Craig Gaskill said the new figure takes into account a variety of changes in the planned alignment. The number has also grown, he said, because of the jump in general construction costs in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Gaskill said the new estimate includes construction of a rail extension to West Glenwood Springs, which a downvalley citizens’ task force said should be included in the project. The estimate also takes into account the midvalley task force’s recommendation that the tracks not follow the present rail alignment along Catherine Store Road.

In addition, he said, the new estimate includes costs associated with making significant cuts into slopes along the upper valley alignment. Those cuts would be necessary to accommodate the recommendation that the rails cross the river at Gerbazdale and then run adjacent to Highway 82 as far as Brush Creek Road.

Federal transportation officials have also instructed RFRHA to widen the rail bed to conform with national standards. That could account for a 10 or 15 percent rise in costs, even though plans are only for a light rail line.

Gaskill also said that as much as 10 percent of the increase in costs is due to the growing price of building in the valley. Asked if the cost estimates are likely to continue to rise in the coming years, Gaskill said, “I think that they’re likely to go down.”

He said the study team is still trying to find ways to cut the costs, including negotiations with federal officials to see if the railbed can be left at its historic width.

And, Gaskill said, “It’s important to remember that we are still in a study phase, and that cost estimates developed so far are for comparison purposes only.”

Gaskill indicated that the next phase of study of the rail proposal should be completed this spring.

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