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 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.