Fancy trail on railway could cost up to $39 million
The cost of train service on the former Denver and Rio Grande rail line between Glenwood Springs and Aspen may stick in some folk’s throats, but the price tag for an elaborate trail system could be an even bigger bone to swallow.
The Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority got a glimpse at a trails plan Friday that carries a hefty $39 million price tag.
RFRHA executive director Tom Newland outlined the amenities, including a 10-foot wide, paved surface and a four-foot “soft” trail that would run parallel to the tracks. The trail system could also include solar-powered emergency call boxes, restrooms, picnic tables and information kiosks.
RFRHA board member Georgeann Waggaman was not impressed. “I want to go on record to say I’m not pleased with this trail … It’s so darn urban.”
Adding she could see such a trail outside any town or city in the country, “I didn’t go to the Rocky Mountains for this.”
What she’d like to see is some “messy vitality” in the trail, not the same uniform pavement, well-manicured trees and shrubs, restrooms and signs along the 40-mile length of the trail. “Differences add to the charm,” she said.
Newland said the plan could instead call for only a four-foot wide unpaved trail.
In the final analysis it will be up to each community to design and pay for their portions of the trail. “The individual communities will change it to their personality,” said board member and Garfield County Commissioner John Martin.
The RFRHA board also got a preliminary look at draft policy for railroad crossings, which have sparked controversy and litigation since the line was purchased two years ago.
Consultant Roger Millar of Otak, a Basalt engineering firm, said the policy will standardize maintenance and permitting as well as control of the various crossings. In all there are about 80 permits for crossings on the railroad corridor, both public and private.
Many private crossing agreements were worked out with the previous owners of the right of way, such as the Denver and Rio Grande, Union Pacific and Southern Pacific. Since changing hands paperwork has been lost, fees either not paid or paid to the former owners instead of RFRHA, Millar said.
“Lots of people have crossings and we have no record of it … We will have to grandfather folks in,” Millar said. But some have also bulldozed their own crossings. “We will deal with them differently.”
He also outlined the types of crossings that could be installed at the access points. The most simple, called a Type 3 crossing, is a stop sign and “Railroad Crossing” cross bars mounted on a pole.
These are mandated by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission for less than 10 auto trips per day over the crossing.
For more than 450 auto trips per day PUC requires a grade separated crossing in which trains and cars go over or under each other. Local governments can also petition for an at-grade, Type 2 crossing which includes the cross buck with a flashing light and a bell to warn motorists a train is coming, as well as an automatic gate across the lane of traffic.
To prevent anxious motorists from driving around the gate, a concrete barrier can be erected as a median divider, forcing cars to back up some distance to get around it, Millar said.
Such crossings would be required at Fourth and Eighth streets in Carbondale and 27th Street in Glenwood Springs.
Grade-separated crossings would have to be constructed at Wingo Junction outside Basalt, on Highway 133 and 82 in Carbondale and Brush Creek Road in Snowmass.
Under the RFRHA policy no new crossings would be allowed, except where ordered by the PUC or where access could not be provided by a reasonable or a permitted crossing, Millar said. RFRHA is currently in negotiations with Sanders Ranch developer George Hanlon over such access.
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