Posts Tagged ‘Colorado’

Colorado Commission Eyes Rail Expansion

September 5, 2017

A Colorado commission is studying a reroute of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief via Pueblo.

The study is part of a larger effort to restore rail passenger service along the Front Range of the Rockies between Fort Collins and Trinidad.

The commission faces a Dec. 1 deadline to submit its plan to the state legislature and is working with the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Intercity rail passengers between Denver and Front Range points south of the city ended on May 1, 1971, when a Santa Fe connecting train between Denver and La Juanta, Colorado, was discontinued.

Officials are eyeing a commuter rail service between Pueblo and Fort Collins, Colorado, which would cost an estimated $5 billion to $15 billion, said David Krutsinger, deputy director of CDOT’s transit and rail program.

Rerouting the Southwest Chief via Colorado would require rehabilitating 50 miles of track and it is not clear where the millions of dollars in funding for that would come from.

An estimated 14,000 passengers a year would use the Chief if it served Pueblo.

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Colorado Front Range Service Study Get Green Light

May 25, 2017

A bill requiring a study of expanding rail passenger service along Colorado’s Front Range has been signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The legislation authorizes creation of the Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission.

The 11-member Commission includes representatives of various Front Range communities and Union Pacific and BNSF railroads.

The study is expected to be completed and submitted to the state by Dec. 1.

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.