Colorado Begins Planning Front Range High Speed Rail
The Colorado Department of Transportation is beginning to plan a high speed rail network that would connect Fort Collins to Colorado Springs and Pueblo, as well as an east-west route along Interstate 70 to Eagle, serving nearby ski resorts. Their plan is to start with a shorter route from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs via Denver International Airport:
A proposed high-speed rail system from Fort Collins to DIA and then south to Colorado Springs would cost about $9.8 billion and carry roughly 13 million passengers a year, according to planners Tuesday night….
Planners said any rail corridor would have to avoid cutting through the city of Denver to scale back costs. Still, a 340-mile system that would go from Fort Collins south to DIA and south to Pueblo and include I-70 to Eagle would cost over $30 billion.
Which is why CDOT planners say phasing the project makes sense. The preferred 132-mile route from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs omits, for the time being, the I-70 west portion.
It seems to me that a better route would be one that includes a stop in downtown Denver, perhaps following Interstate 25 closely. I’m open to discussion on the merits of a DIA stop. The FasTracks program is currently building a rail line from downtown Denver to DIA that will provide a 35 minute travel time. Not ideal, but perhaps workable. I dunno. I’d be interested to see some studies.
Overall though, a Front Range HSR project from Fort Collins to Denver to Colorado Springs is a damn fine place to start the larger network. Most of the Front Range population lives in a narrow north-south corridor that the HSR route would serve, with stations likely being close to population centers (and hopefully smack in the middle of them). Once a line is built there it would help build support for tackling the engineering challenge that would be HSR westward from Denver into the mountains to serve the ski resorts.
Colorado is doing good work building a passenger rail network within the Denver metropolitan area. The obvious next step is to build an HSR network to knit together the state’s other metropolitan regions and its popular destinations. As the United States continues to move beyond fossil fuel consumption and reduce carbon emissions, projects like this will have to remain a priority.