5:15am

Thu June 13, 2013
Business Report

Could High Speed Rail Be Coming To Northern Colorado?

A study exploring the feasibility of high-speed rail from Fort Collins to Pueblo has identified five potential routes along the I-25 corridor that could carry more than 10 million passengers annually.

Erin O'Toole talks with NCBR publisher Jeff Nuttall about a study exploring rail service between Pueblo and Fort Collins for Morning Edition

The $2.8 million study was launched last spring by the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration. It comes as Colorado emerges from the Great Recession and traffic has begun to pick up dramatically -- to the annoyance of many commuters.

With strong growth projected for the Front Range, that congestion is only going to get worse, says Northern Colorado Business Report publisher Jeff Nuttall.

“Traffic studies indicate that car and truck traffic is supposed to double by 2035, and that will add a huge burden to an already over-used road system,” Nuttall says.

Preliminary cost estimates indicate a $15 billion price tag for the project – roughly three times more than the cost for RTD's FasTracks project. Nuttall points out the high-speed rail project would be much larger than FasTracks because it would serve the entire Front Range, not just metro Denver.

Interview highlights:

What would a high-speed rail line look like along I-25?

"Well, it would be fast. These trains travel at speeds up to 147 miles per hour. Depending on which route is selected, the line might connect Fort Collins with Denver International Airport; or it might take passengers into downtown Denver to the new Union Station, where they could catch a train out to DIA or travel farther south to Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

One of the beauties of high-speed rail is that it is fast -- and it could be built in a way that complements existing mass transit systems, such as metro Denver’s FasTracks."

Can northern Colorado afford to build something like this?

"That’s something our elected leaders and voters will ultimately have to decide. Early cost/benefit projections indicate that the rail lines are appealing to commuters, and that they would generate enough annual revenue to more than cover operating costs."

How long would it take to build this?

"Planners say -- if they get the go-ahead, of course -- that it will be important to get an initial test segment up and running in the next 10 to 12 years, with full build-out completed by 2035."

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