Passenger rail funds may aid Colorado’s hopes for new service |

Passenger rail funds may aid Colorado’s hopes for new service

Kevin Flynn
Rocky Mountain News
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” New federal funding for passenger rail service could boost Colorado’s efforts to establish train service between Front Range cities and into the mountains along Interstate 70.

The Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2008, signed by President Bush this month, mandates Amtrak to explore additional service out of Denver Union Station.

The act also includes federal matching funds for capital projects to enhance or establish passenger rail service.

The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority, a group consisting of 24 cities, 17 counties and three transit agencies, is conducting a $1.5 million feasibility study.

It is looking into potential ridership, alignments, technology and cost of high-speed rail systems going border to border along the Front Range from New Mexico to Wyoming, and into the mountains along I-70 from Denver International Airport.

Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman, said the federal act includes 80 percent federal funding for selected state projects, along with capital funding for improving Amtrak’s corridors.

Magliari said Amtrak passenger counts went up about 6.5 percent in Colorado, all of it on the California Zephyr that runs daily east and west between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay area through Denver. It serves Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Granby, Winter Park and Fort Morgan as well.

Magliari said the act mandates Amtrak to study the possible reinstatement of the daily Pioneer service that used to connect Denver with Seattle by way of Cheyenne; Ogden, Utah; Boise, Idaho; and Portland, Ore.

Reinstated Pioneer service could give a boost to the northern half of a Front Range passenger rail from Denver to Wyoming.

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