Garco backs passenger rail study

Donna Gray
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Garfield County commissioners threw their support Monday – and $10,000 – behind a push to upgrade passenger train service from Denver International Airport through western Colorado.

The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority (RMRA) wants to establish high-speed commuter rail from Casper, Wyo., on existing tracks along the Colorado Front Range to Albuquerque, N.M., and from DIA along the Interstate 70 corridor to mountain communities, ski areas and the Utah state line.

RMRA Executive Director Bob Briggs said his group has raised $370,000 in pledges from Colorado governments and residents for the RangerXpress transit study. The money will go to match a $1.2 million grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

“That’s our goal in life, a feasibility study by 2008,” he said.

RMRA hopes to get $50,000 each from Front Range communities, and it’s asking local governments along the I-70 corridor west of Denver to give $10,000 a year for two years to help fund the study, Briggs said.

“(Passenger rail) has been a big concern for the Front Range,” said Commissioner Tresi Houpt, who also sits on the I-70 coalition of local governments hoping to influence upgrades planned for the corridor by CDOT. “We hope your commitment is as strong to I-70 as I-25.”

“There’s a tremendous amount of support in the state to solve I-70 (traffic congestion) and rail has to be a part of that,” Briggs said.

Commissioner John Martin cautioned Briggs that expanding rail in Garfield County will be a challenge because of the narrow Glenwood and DeBeque canyons.

Briggs said the intention is to use existing Amtrak tracks. Amtrak currently offers passenger service from Denver to Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction. Much of the rails in western Colorado are single track and would have to be upgraded to double track, Briggs said.

“We hope to offer multiple daily service from Grand Junction to Denver,” Briggs said.

County manager Ed Green expressed skepticism about the plan.

“Sure I can get on a train but if I don’t have my car when I get there, what good is it?” he asked. Green also said some trains on the East Coast take cars as well as passengers.

“You can always rent a car,” said Bernie Zimmer, president of the Colorado Rail Association, who also appealed to the commissioners Monday for a contribution to the study.


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