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Passenger rail commission aims to connect Front Range Communities

Posted at 7:13 PM, Feb 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-19 21:43:03-05

DENVER – On any given day, an estimated 98,100 people are riding light rail trains in Denver. Ticket prices start at 3-bucks. So, why not?

But the farthest south you’ll get on the light rail is Lone Tree. So, the Colorado Department of Transportation and local leaders serving on the Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission are looking to expand commuter rail options.

“One of the things we’re focusing on right now is how do you look at the identifiable steps that really look at multimodal options along the Front Range,” said CDOT spokesperson Amy Ford.

State lawmakers set aside millions of dollars in the past two sessions to specifically encourage multimodal transportation options like passenger rail. In fact, the Front Range Passenger Rail Commission has been holding meetings on this issue since July of 2017.

“There are a number of different ways that it can be aligned,” Ford explained. “It can be aligned along I-25 in certain areas, it can be aligned outside of the I-25 corridor in others.”

It won’t be cheap. An Interregional Connectivity Study completed in 2014 put the price tag at $14.1 to $14.3 billion to build one option of a High-Speed Transit line connecting Pueblo to Ft. Collins with an eastern beltway stopping at Denver International Airport.

To put that in perspective, the infrastructure costs alone for such a train would be seven times greater than CDOT’s entire budget for the fiscal year 2019 ($2.1 billion.) Another option in that study lowers the cost to $11.5 billion by sharing tracks with the Denver light rail.

Ford knows infrastructure costs are high, but she says the political climate for moving ahead with passenger rail has never been better.

“We can’t build our way out of congestion with the amount of roads that we have, but at the same time, we recognize that how we move people efficiently, sustainably, is a really an important part of how we address transportation problems that we have here in the 21st Century.”

The Front Range Rail Commission’s next scheduled meeting is March 8th at 9:00 a.m. in Denver.