Sell rail, build trail
Dear Editor:Light rail would be a huge asset for our valley. To be feasible, it will require the construction of another set of tracks and the upgrade of the existing set to make it capable of sustaining 60 mph coaches on 20-minute intervals in both directions. The resultant impacts to side traffic entering and exiting our solitary highway corridor will be substantial, however, unless the rails are grade separated at crossings. The howl from high-speed metal wheels will reverberate through gated communities and trailer parks alike. The Federal Railroad Administration inspection of the tracks in 1998 failed the rails for Class 2 freight at 25 mph or less, limiting speeds on existing tracks to 10 mph between Glenwood and Carbondale. The tracks are unusable beyond Carbondale. Existing, worn track and ties will need to be taken out before high-speed capable rails and ties can be laid. Removing the rails from the grade is difficult and expensive.The rail corridor was purchased with money from grants by GOCO to preserve the corridor as open space for trails, recreation, wildlife, and environmental and educational purposes. CDOT’s contribution was for multimodal mass transportation including bikes, pedestrians, horses and rail. RFTA is to reimburse CDOT $3 million if mass transit is not in place by 2020. A trail satisfies mass transit requirements. A 12-mile dinner train does not.Despite valley residents voting to increase their taxes to facilitate the building of a trail, RFTA is hard pressed to afford to build the trail using its current strategy of utilizing private contractors for construction. Forming its own construction and maintenance division would slash construction expenses 50 percent or more, but it does not have the will or paradigm to do so. A meandering trail entirely off the rail grade will be much more expensive to construct and less commuter friendly, though more recreationally oriented. RFTA’s bylaws allow it to use the railroad grade at the many pinch points and wetlands along the corridor where savings are 30 percent or more. The tracks must be removed from these areas prior to trail construction.RFTA has a standing offer from A&K Railroad Materials Inc. to remove our marginally usable rails and leave behind a finished dirt trail grade. A&K will pay RFTA $900,000 to do so. This sum is enough to pave 17 miles of trail at $35,000 a mile and still leave $300,000 for survey and administrative costs.A financially strapped organization with a directive to build a trail would be irresponsible not to consider this offer.John HoffmannCarbondale
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