Colorado Springs City Council members critiqued plans for a passenger rail station in town on Monday over economic feasibility and the likelihood residents will use the service. 

The city is responsible for identifying a site for the rail station that would serve Amtrak and intercity commuter trains, and the staff has narrowed the options down to four sites in the downtown area.

The possibilities are the historic depot, near south Sierra Madre Street and Colorado Avenue, America the Beautiful Park, the Drake Power Plant site and the Nevada Avenue and Mill Street area where the city plans to replace aging railroad bridges, said Brian Vitulli, transit planning supervisor for the city. 

The city is only identifying a location for a station. It is not responsible for building, maintaining or funding the rail stop that could be part of the train service the Colorado Department of Transportation and Amtrak are working on, Vitulli said.

The state legislature also formed a new district this spring that encompasses the communities the rail line could serve and can ask voters for a tax increase to fund the trains. 

Where should a Colorado Springs passenger rail station be located?

Colorado Springs is responsible for identifying a site for a passenger rail station that would serve Amtrak and intercity commuter trains, and the staff has narrowed the options down to four sites in the downtown area.

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The location study is expected to be finished by the summer ahead of Amtrak service that could start in two to three years. Amtrak trains could travel north and south through Pueblo and Colorado Springs to take riders to the main east-west line that runs through La Junta. It could be a decade before commuter rail service starts to connect Colorado Springs to Denver and other destinations, Vitulli said. 

Councilman Wayne Williams was among those who raised concerns about the rail station, saying the city should consider locations farther north, nearer to the population center to better serve those likely to commute to Denver each day. 

"Transit is effective if it is designed to be used," he said. 

It doesn't make sense to ask Denver commuters to drive south to a downtown train station to then travel north, he said.

Failing to look at locations farther north makes the study fatally flawed, Williams said.

"The only way to get riders on (the rail line) is to have it serve people and we haven’t looked at where the people are," he said.

Vitulli said the city considered where its other existing public transit infrastructure is to inform the location of a rail station. 

Councilwoman Stephannie Fortune, who represents downtown, seemed to support the proposed locations because population density downtown is growing. 

"There is lots of apartment buildings and lots of young riders," she said.

Some council members seemed to oppose the rail service in general, even though the city will not be involved in it after a site is selected. 

"It is clearly not economically viable now," Councilman Bill Murray said. 

Others seemed to support rail as a transportation option. 

"We have to balance vision and data," Councilwoman Nancy Henjum said. "We are looking at the future and I think it’s our responsibility to look very forward."

Contact the writer at mary.shinn@gazette.com or (719) 429-9264.

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