Posts Tagged ‘Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission’

Colo. Rail Projects Gets More Funding

September 30, 2020

A recent federal grant awarded to fund a study of intercity rail passenger along Colorado’s Front Range will be bolstered by $137,000 from state and local government agencies.

The Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission, Pueblo County, city of Trinidad, and Colorado chapter of the Rail Passengers Association will provide that money to match the $548,000 received from a federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant.

“This funding will ensure that the Front Range Passenger Rail Project can move forward into detailed stages that will help determine specific engineering and operational challenges as well as give us a far better understanding of potential benefits and costs,” said Randy Grauberger, project director for the commission.

That study will examine the types of equipment, technology and infrastructure the corridor will require for passenger operations.

Also part of the review will be an assessment of revenue projections, suggested service frequencies and estimated benefits.

Planners are expected to recommend a governance structure for the rail operator.

Amtrak Service to Colorado Springs to be Studied

March 3, 2020

The U.S. Department of transportation had awarded a $225,000 grant to be used to study extending a section of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief to Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The study would be an extension of ongoing efforts to bring Amtrak service to Pueblo, Colorado.

Colorado Springs Councilwoman Jill Gaebler, who serves on the Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission, said Amtrak proposed extending the Pueblo service to Colorado Springs, which is the second largest city in the state.

Colorado Springs has not had intercity rail passenger service since 1971.

“They approached us about the idea of not just having the spur go up to Pueblo, but then come the extra 30 miles into Colorado Springs,” Gaebler said.

She said the feasibility study will determine the costs of providing service to Pueblo and Colorado Springs.

Gaebler said a side benefit of the study would be to consider the cost of rebuilding the rail infrastructure needed for a passenger rail line from Pueblo to Fort Collins via Denver.

SW Chief Funding Request Tabled

June 24, 2019

Commissioners of Bent County Colorado had tabled for now consideration of a request from La Junta City Manager Rick Klein for a matching funding commitment needed to land a federal grant to continue rebuilding the route of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

Klein told the commissioners that the grant is needed to finish rebuilding the route, a process that began in 2011 when Amtrak threatened to remove the train from its current route through western Kansas, southeast Colorado and northern New Mexico after BNSF said it would not longer maintain the tracks to passenger train speeds.

Local government interests supporting the route rebuilding have won federal grants in recent years that have gone toward track rehabilitation.

Klein said Amtrak has informed the Southwest Chief and Front Range Rail Commission that the numbers for a through-train from La Junta to Pueblo, Colorado, are feasible.

“We are hoping to have a ballot question for Front Range rail from Cheyenne to Trinidad in 2020,” he said.

Colorado Seeks RFP for Front Range Rail Service

June 2, 2019

The Colorado Department of Transportation has issued a request for proposals to study rail options in the Front Range corridor between Pueblo and Fort Collins.

CDOT is joining with the Southwest Chief & Front Range Passenger Rail Commission in seeking ways to relieve traffic congestion by instituting rail service in a region that is home to 85 percent of the state’s population.

Officials have noted that 4.9 million people live in the corridor and it is expected to reach 6.6 million by 2045.

“The Commission is excited to explore how passenger rail can bring sustainable and real congestion relief along our Front Range,” Passenger Rail Commission Chair Jill Gaebler said in a news release. “As our population grows, the I-25 corridor will continue to be a vital link to our economy, moving people and goods while improving connectivity and allowing Colorado to flourish.”

Grauberger Pushing for Colorado Rail Service

April 4, 2019

The Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission in Colorado has named Randy Grauberger to oversee the efforts of pushing for expanded intercity rail passenger service in the state.

Grauberger worked for 28 years at the Colorado Department of Transportation and also worked at WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff.

He said that that having a new governor, a new executive director of his agency and new members of the state legislature have created a favorable environment for passenger rail.

“Everybody understands there needs to be more mobility choices provided to folks over time and passenger rail is an obvious one,” Grauberger said in noting that much of the state’s population growth is occurring along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.

Established in 2017, the Front Range Commission is developing a plan for passenger service between Fort Collins and Pueblo.

It has also sought to preserve operations in the state of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief. That included working to fend off efforts by Amtrak earlier this to replace the Chief through Colorado with a bus service.

Some ideas being studied by the Front Range Commission include commuter rail, but it is also looking at high-speed rail.  “The first priority is to determine a course of action,” he said.

The Commission expects to issue by June 1 a request for proposals to engage a consultant to develop a service plan and a preliminary environmental report.

That study is expected to cost $1.5 million and will seek to measure public support for rail service.

Voters in 2018 rejected two ballot measures to fund transportation projects including one proposal to increase sales tax to pay for highways, mass transit and other projects.

“You’re going to have to start getting a lot of public support” for the Front Range proposal, Grauberger said.

He said that studies of costs, funding, governance plans and environmental reports are to be completed in six years.

After that voters will be asked to consider financing and the creation of a regional transportation district. Design and construction work would occur seven to 15 years after that.

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.