News in Brief
A new problem could derail a proposed dinner train between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.Union Pacific Railroad Co. will require $25 million worth of insurance for the operator of any excursion train that wants to use land known as the wye property in Glenwood Springs. The wye is located where the railroad corridor in the Roaring Fork Valley connects to the freight line by the Colorado River. Although the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and the city of Glenwood Springs own the property, Union Pacific holds powerful authority as holder of a railroad easement, according to RFTA attorney Renee Black. Union Pacific can “basically control all activities on the surface of the property, even excluding the [land] owner,” Black wrote to the RFTA board of directors.Union Pacific has informed RFTA it would require $5 million worth of insurance for a commuter train to use the property. That use was contemplated when RFTA and Union Pacific reached a shared-use agreement when RFTA acquired the railroad corridor in the valley.But Union Pacific would require $25 million worth of insurance for a dinner or tourist train because that type of user “doesn’t have rigorous safety oversight” by the government, Black said.An investment group is negotiating with RFTA for approval to use the railroad corridor for a dinner train. It wants to use the Glenwood Springs wye as a staging area, where passengers would load.Black’s recommendation was to require the $25 million in insurance unless the dinner train operator can negotiate a smaller amount with Union Pacific. She strongly advised against waiving the stiff insurance requirement and risking a lawsuit by Union Pacific.”It is my legal opinion that RFTA would likely lose a lawsuit brought by UP if we allowed any train operation on the wye, other than commuter rail,” she wrote.The RFTA directors agreed to follow her advice.
The Roaring Fork School District board of education swore in new member Bob Johnson, a Basalt resident, and appointed new officers Wednesday.Basalt resident Michael Bair, who also took his oath for a new term, was selected as the new board president, Sue Hakanson rotated from the position. Glenwood Springs resident Bruce Wampler was reappointed board vice president. Carbondale resident Brad Zeigel moved to the role of board secretary, while newcomer Johnson stepped in as board treasurer. Board members are elected residents who serve in a volunteer capacity representing the public school district that encompasses Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.
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Colorado’s Western Slope is considered a climate hot spot where temperatures are increasing faster than the global average. This warming has contributed to more than 20 years of dryness, which scientists are calling a megadrought.