Passenger rail along the Fort Collins-Pueblo Front Range will move ahead, thanks to Colorado Gov. Jarid Polis, who has signed a bill creating a new taxing district to coordinate it, according to The Denver Post.
The taxing district “will cover all or parts of 13 counties near I-25 between the Wyoming and New Mexico state lines, including all of metro Denver,” the paper reported.
The district and an appointed board are slated to formalize plans for the service, which is “likely to include a route north of Denver that goes through Boulder, with the district potentially coordinating with the [Denver] Regional Transportation District to share costs between the railway and RTD’s unfinished northwest line,” The Post reported.
The paper said the 17-member board must begin meeting next May. It will consist of six appointees of the governor who must confirmed by the state Senate (including one who “must live in an area that was promised rail service by RTD’s FasTracks plan but has not yet received it”); 10 appointees of area regional transportation planning organizations who must be confirmed by the Senate; and one appointee of the Colorado Department of Transportation. “Several non-voting advisory members will represent the freight railroads [including Union Pacific and BNSF], Amtrak and other organizations,” according to The Post.
Amtrak, which would likely operate the line as a state-supported corridor service, outlined its Front Range Corridor vision earlier this year, including three daily round-trips between Fort Collins, Denver and Pueblo, with one round-trip extending to Cheyenne, Wyo. (See map below.) The Front Range is currently only served by one Amtrak station (Denver, served by Amtrak’s California Zephyr), providing east-west transportation. There is no north-south intercity passenger rail service.
According to The Post, a “recent state report estimated that initial Front Range service could cost as little as $2 billion. Costs for a full build-out, along dedicated double-track between Fort Collins and Pueblo, could soar to $14 billion. There’s also been discussion about linking the line farther south to Trinidad, which is along Amtrak’s Southwest Chief line.”
How much the state and Amtrak would contribute is unknown, The Post reported. Money could also come from a district sales tax, but the “new law requires a detailed services development plan, an operating plan and attempts to seek federal funding before the district can ask voters to approve a tax.”
The paper noted that the new district will “replace the Southwest Chief & Front Range Passenger Rail Commission, which for years has studied the potential for a north-south rail line.”