S.W. Chief Commission Looks to New Mission

Legislation has been introduced in the Colorado legislature to extend the life of the state commission that worked to save Amtrak’s Southwest Chief route through the southeast corner of the state.

coloradoThe legislation would expand the work of the Southwest Chief Commission to include a focus on reviving intercity rail passenger service along the Front Range from Fort Collins to Trinidad.

The latter is a city served by Chicago-Los Angeles Chief. Otherwise, the commission will cease to exist on July 1.

Sal Pace, a Pueblo County commissioner and chairman of the Southwest Chief Commission, said that with the Chief’s future no longer in doubt expanding the commission’s mission is “about the next step, the next phase.”

If approved, the legislation would revamp the commission to include the Front Range Passenger Rail Commission, which includes stakeholders from along the Front Range.

The commission would be given a mandate to propose a plan for border-to-border service by the end of 2017.

The legislation does not seek additional state funding for the commission’s work.

One of the bill’s promoters, State Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, said he expects resistance,“but what you have to realize as a state is we are looking at a doubling of the population in 30 or 40 years. What we need to do is find a way to have a reliable and affordable way to transport people.”

The Southwest Chief Commission bill has bipartisan support.

As for the train that gave the commission its name, work is still underway to reroute Amtrak Nos. 3 and 4 via Pueblo. Pace said Amtrak is receptive to that, but paying for it is a major challenge.

Pueblo officials believe that bringing Amtrak to their city could spur a redevelopment of the city’s train station in a manner similar to what has happened at Denver Union Station, which has become a downtown rail hub tied into a light rail system.

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