Colorado Springs rail plans moving along, but have long way to go

By Garrison Wells Published: December 23, 2013 | 12:00 am 0

Even before the wheels hit the track, high-speed rail would have a booming economic impact on Colorado, producing more than 10,000 jobs a year during construction.

In all, the project would create 115,000 jobs over a 10-year construction period, said David Krutsinger, transit and rail program manager with the Colorado Department of Transportation.

"It's very significant," he said.

Still, nothing is likely to happen any time soon.

High-speed rail is the subject of the Interregional Connectivity Study by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

It's chugging along.

The study wrapped up its public meetings in November and next will be presented to the state's Transportation Commission.

"We expect to have a draft report released some time in January," Krutsinger said.

The Transportation Commission will review the report and consider action some time in March, he said.

"I think the commission will accept it as a vision of the future," he said. "The development of the funding is something that will have to occur over a period of many years. We've got enough information to know it's a good deal for the state of Colorado, but it can't be done without revenue sources."

Therein lies the rub.

High-speed rail in Colorado is a multibillion-dollar project without funding.

It will compete with other state budget demands, such as a wide array of other transportation projects.

"Cost is the major issue," said El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark. Clark is on the board of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments.

"It's great to look at transportation options as we get more populated as a state," she said.

"How many of us would love to just hop on a train to Denver? I'm one of those, but there has to be a good financial return on the investment."

The study does, however, open the gate to federal funding.

"Its put us at least in line with other states that would be going after federal funding," Krutsinger said. "I think that's the main thing this study has accomplished. It demonstrates that we are ready and intend to request federal funding."

The line running along the I-25 corridor between Fort Collins and Briargate in north Colorado Springs remains the favored option for the first push for funds, he said.

The entire project, which includes rail on the I-70 corridor from Denver to Vail and the I-25 corridor from Fort Collins to Pueblo, carries the hefty price tag of $30 billion.

The Fort Collins to Briargate stretch costs about a third of that at $10 billion, but has roughly 75 percent of the potential ridership.

"This is the best place to start," Krutsinger said. "It creates the foundation to do the rest later."

No specific station locations have been set, but, in Briargate, a station likely would be at I-25 and the Briargate exit, he said.

Other stations would be in Monument, Castle Rock, and RidgeGate on the south edge of the Denver Tech Center.

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