May 17, 2013 Updated: May 17, 2013 at 11:40 am
Imagine a 35-minute trip to downtown Denver from downtown Colorado Springs on a train that hits a top speed of 250 mph.
The landscape blurs by. The coffee is piping.
And gas prices are not a bother.
It's an image that - at least conceptually - Colorado Springs residents like.
Colorado Public Interest Research Group wants to take that message to the Colorado Department of Transportation and Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The consumer advocacy organization this summer will campaign to build support for high-speed rail in Colorado. This month and in early June, members will canvass local residents door to door, said Danny Katz, CoPIRG director.
The campaign, which will wrap up in August, will also take the organization to the El Paso County Commissioners and Colorado Springs City Council.
"They have a huge stake in decisions," Katz said. "High-speed rail can have a positive impact locally. We also believe that a lot of businesses will benefit from it."
CoPIRG plans to use the input to encourage the Colorado Department of Transportation to complete a study on regional connectivity - which includes high-speed rail - with enough detail that the proposal could be presented to voters.
"We want to keep the studies moving forward so we are continuing to the day when we, as Coloradans, can decide whether we can actually build this thing," Katz said. "There's a ton of support for the concept of high-speed rail, and it's worth spending the money to complete the studies because it's an important part of our future."
Top selling points, he said, will be the route - downtown Colorado Springs to downtown Denver - and speed.
"You tend to get the biggest benefit, most riders and attract more tourists when trains go faster," Katz said.
There's plenty of demand for such a system from Colorado Springs to Denver, said Craig Casper, transportation director for the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments.
"Commuter rail between Colorado Springs and Denver has been our number one request by the public," he said. "At the conceptual level, that's the most mentioned project from those people who come to our meetings."
Casper envisions a train running at more than 120 mph.
"So it's still quicker than driving. It's trying to replace vehicle trips, not replace airline trips," he said.
According to the Transportation Department's Interregional Connectivity Study, 59 percent of respondents in a survey were in favor of rail. About 28 percent were neutral.
A train from Pueblo through Colorado Springs to Denver had the biggest draw, according to a market share report, at 48 percent.
The biggest obstacle, though, is the cost.
The CDOT report pegs it at about $14 billion, depending on the route.
It will eventually end up in the hands of voters, Katz said. That's why the report by the Transportation Department must be completed despite the staggering cost of the project.
More detail is necessary, including specifics such as location of stations, the type of train and actual costs.
"I think the final study we are pushing CDOT to do won't be very different from the studies that we've seen, but will include detail that is required so that when it's done and the Legislature or governor want to set it to a vote, it would be ready," Katz said. "We're just not there yet. It's just too generic to say: 'Vote for this $14 billion thing.'"