Posts Tagged ‘Pueblo Colorado’

Colo. DOT Seeking Comment on Front Range Plan

July 3, 2020

The Colorado Department of Transportation is soliciting public views on a proposed plan to provide intercity rail passenger service along the state’s Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.

The agency has created a website for those interested to comment.

Comments are being accepted through July 31.

The long-range plan envisions service along a 173-mile route from Fort Collins to Pueblo.

Respondents will be asked how often they might use the service, what is most important to influence them to use it, such as travel time or fares, and see options for potential routes.

Front Range Service Still Years Away

August 19, 2019

Expanded intercity rail passenger service along Colorado’s Front Range is years away if it ever materializes attendees at a recent Southwest Chief Passenger Rail Commission meeting were told.

The commission recently held a public forum in Pueblo, Colorado, that commission officials described as the largest public turnout they had at such events. Attendance was described as “dozens.”

The commission’s next step is to provide the Colorado legislature with the findings of its feasibility studies during the 2020 legislative session.

The expansion would create new service between Fort Collins to Trinidad, which is a stop for Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

It is being billed as a way to relieve highway congestion in a region that is home to 85 percent of the state’s  population.

The 173-mile Front Range corridor is expected to see population growth of 35 percent in the next 25 years with much of it occurring in El Paso County and counties east and north of Denver.

Pueblo has not had intercity rail service since 1971.

Colorado Funding Passenger Fund

May 16, 2018

The Colorado legislature has approved $2.5 million to be used to promote passenger rail development.

The funding will go to the Southwest Chief and Front Range Rail Commission, which is seeking to extend passenger rail service to communities along the Rocky Mountains, including Pueblo and Colorado Springs.

The group is eyeing a section of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief between Trinidad and Pueblo, Colorado. It is also studying a separate rail service that would extend between Trinidad and Fort Collins via Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Denver.

Cost estimates to implement both rail services are $70 million.

The money appropriated by lawmakers will be used for community outreach, planning and other start-up costs.

The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe had a connecting train between Denver and La Junta until the coming of Amtrak in May 1971.

$16M Grant Released for S.W. Chief Route Track Work

March 7, 2018

The federal government has released a $16 million grant that will pay for track work on the route of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

“This should finish off the rail repair between La Junta (Colorado) and Newton (Kansas) as well as the work in Raton Pass,” said Pueblo [Colorado] County Commissioner Sal Pace, who is chairman of the Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission.

The grant supplements more than $9 million pledged from communities served by the train in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.

The project arose after track owner BNSF said it would decrease its maintenance of the line because it handles little freight traffic.

Pace said the multi-state coalition had earlier obtained grants of $21 million and $27 million.

“With this grant, we’re about 75 percent of the way toward the goal of needing $100 million in rail and route repairs,” he said.

The Southwest Chief runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles.

In a related development, the Pueblo County Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution pledging $12,500 to match support from the latest grant to rebuild the route of the Chief.

The federal money is coming from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program.

Colfax County, New Mexico, submitted the $25 million grant application and 23 communities in three states have passed similar resolutions, totaling about $9.2 million

The Front Range Rail commission is seeking to get route the Chief through Pueblo or get a connecting train that would operate to La Junta.

Colorado Board OKs Matching Funds for TIGER Bid

October 30, 2017

The Pueblo [Colorado] Board of County Commissions has approved a resolution pledging $12,500 in matching support toward a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant application.

The money, if awarded, would be used to repair tracks used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

A news report indicated that 23 communities in three states have passed similar resolutions or submitted letters of support to pledge matching funds totaling nearly $9.2 million.

The TIGER grant bid is being submitted by Colfax County New Mexico, and is seeking $25 million from the federal grant program.

Also pledging money have been The City of La Junta and Otero County, which have agreed to put up $12,500 each.

It is the fourth time communities served by Amtrak Nos. 3 and 4 have rallied matching support funds for a TIGER grant.

Officials have said that the latest grant bid would wrap up necessary repairs in Colorado to save the Southwest Chief, which carried 367,267 passengers in 2016.

The route of the Chicago-Los Angeles train needs more than $50 million in rail repairs to the BNSF tracks.

In a related development, the Front Range Rail Commission of Colordao is working on getting a through car that would travel between the Pueblo Union Depot and the city of La Junta, offering a daily connection from Pueblo to the Southwest Chief.

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.

Pueblo Renews Push to Become SW Chief Stop

November 11, 2015

Officials in Pueblo, Colorado, have renewed their push to reroute Amtrak’s Southwest Chief to serve their community.

The effort comes in the wake of successful efforts to assure the future of the train’s current route through western Kansas, southeastern Colorado and northern New Mexico through the use of federal TIGER grants.

The grant money is being used to rebuild the BNSF tracks used by the Chicago-Los Angeles train.

“If Colorado is going to help save this line, we need to have a stop in Pueblo,” said Sal Pace, a Pueblo County commissioner who has been active in the fight to keep the Southwest Chief on its present route.

Pace is chairman of the Southwest Chief Commission and is promoting the use of Pueblo Union Station. Pueblo has not had intercity rail service since the coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

“The funding mechanism is there,” Pace said about the prospect of a Pueblo stop for the Chief. “The devil is in the details.”

A Colorado State University study estimated that adding Pueblo to the route of the Southwest Chief would attract 15,500 passengers annually and have an economic impact of a $3.4 million.

Pace and others have discussed extending operation of the Denver ski train south along the Interstate 25 corridor.

The ski train currently operates between Denver and Winter Park, Colorado, which is the same route used by Amtrak’s California Zephyr.

Colorado passenger rail advocates see extended operation of the ski train as a way to introduce rail passenger travel to Coloradoans living in areas not served by Amtrak or commuter rail service in the Denver metropolitan area.

“The Ski Train is more than just Winter Park for us,” said Jim Souby, president of the Colorado Rail Passenger Association and a member of the Southwest Chief Commission. “It’s showing people how great it is to ride the train.”

A Colorado Department of Transportation study of a proposed Front Range rail system that would extend between Fort Collins and Pueblo put development costs at between $500 million and $1 billion.

Amtrak has been noncommittal about revising the route of the Southwest Chief to include Pueblo and Walsenburg, Colorado. At present, the only stations served by the Chief in Colorado are Lamar, La Junta and Trinidad.

“We think it’s something worth considering,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari. “It’s just a question of cost.”

An Amtrak conductor who works aboard the Southwest Chief sees benefits to having the train serve Pueblo.

“Pueblo would be a big stop,” Marcelino Martinez told the Denver Post. “It would probably rival Kansas City and Albuquerque.”

Martinez said some Chief passengers drive from Colorado Springs to board the train. “We get a lot of people driving down (to La Junta) so they can get to Los Angeles,” he said.

Pueblo is home to the Evraz steel mill, which employs 1,200, and is the nation’s leading producer of rail, some of which is going to be used in rebuilding the route of the Southwest Chief.

The federal government also operates a test track for railroad technology to the east of Pueblo.

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.”