Dinner, excursion trains proposed | AspenTimes.com

Dinner, excursion trains proposed

A company from Iowa has applied to haul diners, sightseers and freight on trains between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC wants to run four tourist trains, one dinner train and one freight train every day, year-round between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, according to its proposal to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which owns the rails. In addition, the Iowa company wants to store up to three miles of freight cars on the tracks between Catherine Store and Hooks.Iowa Pacific was the only firm that submitted a proposal to RFTA to operate train service. RFTA is gauging interest as part of its effort to decide whether or not to tear up and salvage the old track to reduce the costs of constructing a recreational trail.RFTA Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship advised his board of directors not to undertake further negotiations with Iowa Pacific. He wrote in a memo that there is no guarantee that Iowa Pacific will make enough money to share revenues with RFTA.”Staff believes the time, costs, unknowns and risks associated with pursuing a partnership to develop excursion/freight rail operations are substantial and could cause RFTA to lose focus upon its current mission and stated goals,” Blankenship wrote.Iowa Pacific’s proposal said it would spend $524,000 to upgrade the tracks so that passenger trains could travel up to 15 mph and freight trains could go 10 mph. The company also can devote locomotives and passenger cars valued at $1.35 million to service in the Roaring Fork Valley. It would construct a station, maintenance facility and other infrastructure for an estimated $585,000.The company estimated it would carry at least 51,655 passengers in its first full year on the dinner train and 69,000 sightseers on the excursion train.Iowa Pacific wants a 20-year contract from RFTA to have the opportunity to defray capital and make a return on its investment. But Blankenship said the passenger estimates appear high, and there is no guarantee the service would ever produce enough revenues to share profits with RFTA. Use of the track would also drive up the cost of building a trail, he noted.Blankenship wants direction from the RFTA board at their regular meeting Thursday on whether to continue or scrap negotiations with Iowa Pacific.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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