Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Colorado’

27 Ski Train Pairs to Operate in 2018

August 28, 2017

Amtrak will operate 27 trips of the Winter Park Express ski train next winter.

The service between Denver Union Station and the Winter Park ski resort west of Moffat Tunnel will begin on Jan. 5, 2018 and operate on Saturday and Sunday through March 25. Additional trips will run on Feb. 2 and March 2, both Fridays.

Tickets will cost as low as $29 for some trips. The Friday trips are designed to accommodate group travel.

With a capacity of 500, the ski train discharges and boards passengers at a platform adjacent to Winter Park’s slopeside village.

Visit amtrak.com/winterparkexpress for further information and to buy tickets.

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SW Chief Commission Gets New Mandate

April 20, 2017

The Southwest Chief Commission in Colorado will study rail passenger service along the front range of the Rocky Mountains between Fort Collins and Trinidad.

The Colorado legislature recently passed legislation that it sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper that extends the life of the Commission, which was set to sunset on July 1.

The legislation also authorizes the Commission to continue exploring the expansion within the state of Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Colorado rail passenger advocates have long sought to extend operation of the Chief to Pueblo.

Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace, who pushed for the legislation, said that as Colorado’s population grows passenger rail is becoming necessary.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that Amtrak’s going to be OK,” said Jim Souby, president of the Colorado Rail Passenger Association. “Nobody knows quite how Congress is going to handle the budget this year. But I think it’s a big policy declaration by the state that we need to take passenger rail seriously. It passed the (Colorado legislature) with bipartisan support.”

The Southwest Chief Commission was created at a time when the future of the Southwest Chief was in doubt due to deteriorating track conditions.

The recently passed legislation will rename the Commission as the Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission.

The Commission will be directed to recommend a rail passenger plan by late 2017 to the legislature.

Amtrak, Winter Park Call Ski Train a Success

March 25, 2017

Winter Park, Colorado, officials have been pleased with the public response to the revived Denver ski train this year, noting that more than 18,000 tickets have been sold.

The train, operated by Amtrak, operated between January and the last weekend in March.

“It totally exceeded our expectations,” said Winter Park Resort spokesman Steve Hurlbert. “We’ve established that there’s a demand, and the potential for this is through the roof.”

Officials expect the train to return next year.

Many trips sold out and more than a quarter of the tickets were purchased months before service began.

“It was like selling water in the desert,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

With a capacity of 540 passengers, the train carried a small number of the visitors that Winter Park attracts on a given weekend.

But some say the ski train took about 500 vehicles off Interstate 70 every weekend that it ran.

Although ski trains were a staple of Winter Park since 1940 when development of the resort began, no ski trains operated between 2009 and this year.

Officials cited insurance costs and other obstacles for sidetracking the train.

Winter Park head Gary DeFrange worked for tirelessly to get the service re-established. This included a $3 million investment in a platform and siding to serve the train.

Magliari said Amtrak employee Brad Swartzelter approved DeFrange with a proposal for Amtrak to provide the service.

“Brad and his union know how important this train is,” Magliari said.

The resort and Amtrak officials are exploring additional sponsorship possibilities and plan to add food and beverage service aboard the train next year.

 

Ski Train Adds President’s Day Trip

February 16, 2017

Buoyed by sellouts every weekend since its startup, Amtrak has added an extra Winter Park Express ski train trip for President’s Day (Feb. 20).

coloradoSince starting on Jan. 7, the ski train has carried 15,000 passengers between Denver Union Station and the Winter Park ski resort in Colorado.

The ski train is scheduled to operate through the end of March. Tickets are $39 one way and $59 roundtrip.

Trains operate on Saturdays and Sundays and are a partnership among Amtrak, Winter Park Resort, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Rail Passenger Association.

“The fact that there are 15,000 people who have done this, and we’re half-way through the season — the number is eye-popping,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari, noting that five of the first six Saturdays have sold out.

The ski train departs Denver at 7 a.m. and arrives in Winter Park between 8:30 and 9 a.m. It leaves the resort at 4:30 p.m. and arrives back in Denver at 6 p.m. It has a capacity of 500.

Winter Park officials said that the ski train has led to a boost in lodging reservations with many non-skiers using the train to visit the resort.

About 100 of the 500 passengers who arrive on Saturday trains are staying overnight in Winter Park.

Sponsors of the ski train include CenturyLink, Noosa Yoghurt, Clif Bar and Koelbel & Company, a  real estate company.

S.W. Chief Commission Looks to New Mission

February 2, 2017

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.

Study Backs S.W. Chief Connecting Train to Pueblo

July 19, 2016

A study has found that Amtrak’s Southwest Chief would gain an additional 14,000 passengers and net more than $1.445 million in revenue if it were to have a connection section serving Pueblo, Colorado.

The study proposed starting a stub-end train that would shuttle between Pueblo and the current Chief stop in LaJunta, Colorado.

Amtrak Southwest Chief 2The connecting train would have through cars to and from Chicago.

The distance between LaJunta and Pueblo is 64 miles and has been without intercity rail passenger service since a Santa Fe train between LaJunta and Denver was discontinued on May 1, 1971.

The study was conducted by the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Southwest Chief Rail Line Economic Development, Rural Tourism, and Infrastructure Repair and Maintenance Commission Fund.

The ridership estimates were based on an Amtrak model that projects patronage for a one-seat ride.

The study did not attempt to factor in operating, switching, labor, or infrastructure costs. Nor did it examine potential ridership for through service to points west of LaJunta.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said passenger carrier is encouraged by the findings and will continue to work with Colorado interests who have sought the service.

Colorado interests say their next step is to obtain cost estimates from the host railroads.

Colo. Gov. Signs SW Chief Preservation Plan

May 14, 2014

Colorado Gov.  John Hickenlooper today signed signed legislation designed to preserve Amtrak’s Southwest Chief service through Southeastern Colorado.

The signing came at a ceremony in Pueblo. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Leroy Garcia and State Sen. Larry Crowder, creates a financing authority so that Colorado can dedicate $40 million to upgrading the BNSF Railway route across southern Kansas and Colorado and add a stop in Pueblo. The bill received bipartisan support through both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly.

While Kansas lawmakers support the plan, New Mexico fell short this year in approving its participation, also for $40 million.

Colorado Wants to Add Pueblo to SW Chief Route

February 7, 2014

Keeping the Southwest Chief operating through Colorado would add $31 million to the estimated $200 million price tag to retain the train on its current route, according to an economic study released Thursday.

Colorado State University-Pueblo released the economic-impact study focusing on the idea of extending the Southwest Chief route to include a Pueblo, Colo., stop before the route bends south to New Mexico, a proposal currently pending in the Colorado Legislature.

The report, commissioned by the Pueblo Area Council of Governments, projects Colorado would reap $57 million in new economic activity over the course of one decade if the Pueblo stop was added.

The study made no presumptions about how to pay for the additional expense of adding Pueblo to the route  of the Chief.

“There’s still a lot of discussion about that,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace.

Much of the money that the state would pay to maintain Amtrak service involves buying new rail.

That’s the $200 million problem that lawmakers in those states are trying to solve, said Gary Carter of the Colorado Rail Passenger Association.

Colorado state Rep. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, and state Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, are pushing legislation to save the Chief.

Carter said Amtrak wants rails that can handle trains doing 80 mph.

“What we need is to replace the old rails, some of which were installed in the 1950s, with new, heavier welded rails that can handle higher speeds,” Carter said.

Replacing the rails from Newton, Kan., to Santa Fe, N.M., would cost $200 million. That would be paid with $40 million each from Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, BNSF and Amtrak, according to Carter.

“When you consider that it can cost $60 million to rebuild 20 miles of highway, modernizing that many miles of rail is a bargain by comparison,” Carter said. Garcia’s and Crowder’s efforts are aimed at creating a state financing authority to take responsibility for the track replacement in Colorado.

The legislation also would alter the current route of the Southwest Chief to bring it into Pueblo as well. Carter said the existing rails between La Junta, Pueblo and Trinidad are in comparatively good shape.

He said one challenge in adding that section to the route of the Chief would be the construction of additional rail sidings to accommodate more train traffic.

Garcia introduced legislation this week to create a financing authority to oversee Colorado’s portion of the route.

The bill was celebrated last Saturday near the train tracks behind the Pueblo Union Depot before a spirited crowd of about 100 politicians, Puebloans and people from around the region.

“We need this train . . . It’s going to be a challenge and we’ve got some work ahead of us,” Garcia said, speaking from the top side of a historical locomotive behind the depot.

Garcia said 28 legislators have cosponsored his bill.

The Southwest Chief now operates between Chicago and Los Angeles, with Colorado stops in Lamar, La Junta and Trinidad.

Garcia said adding a stop in Pueblo would increase ridership because of more people living here. “I’ll tell you what, I am ready for Pueblo to be on the Amtrak map. We have an opportunity to set this right,” said Crowder said, standing next to Garcia. “We cannot allow this to be taken out of Southeastern Colorado.”

Pueblo Commissioner Pace touted the economic impact of the route. “We have the opportunity on the steel-making side and for the (EVRAZ Pueblo) steel mill, because if we have over 200 miles of rail that need to be replaced, we have a steel mill here in Pueblo,” Pace said. “We can create a lot of jobs here.”