Eagle County commissioners hear update on mountain rail | VailDaily.com

Eagle County commissioners hear update on mountain rail

By Scott Miller

Who they talked to: Greg Schroeder of the county engineer’s office.

What they talked about: Schroeder told the commissioners the authority’s latest report had determined that high-speed rail could be an economically viable project in Colorado. The authority is looking at lines between Pueblo and Fort Collins roughly parallel to Interstate 25, and from Denver International Airport to Avon roughly parallel to Interstate 70.

The report indicates that the cost of the entire system is more than $21 billion. If the money could be found – likely from the federal government – the system could zip riders from downtown Denver to Vail in about two hours at an average cost of $40 per rider. The report estimates that a two-hour trip from Silverthorne to Fort Collins could cost $48 per rider, on average.

But the report isn’t a firm estimate of what kind of system would be used or where it would stop. Schroeder said the latest report is the next step needed to get Colorado designated a “High Speed Rail Corridor” in order to be eligible for federal funds.

What’s next? Schroeder said the next steps include developing a state rail plan and coordinating with freight railroads.

Quotable: “It looks like a consultants’ Christmas with all the studies here.” – Eagle County Manager Keith Montag.

Who they talked to: Eagle County Engineer Eva Wilson.

What they talked about: The Colorado Department of Transportation and federal highway officials are updating the “Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement” for the Interstate 70 corridor between Denver and Grand Junction. That document outlines future improvements and the points at which traffic levels will trigger putting “advanced guideway”- or, “rail” – into the plan.

The update is being worked on now, and is expected to be finalized by the summer of 2011.

What’s the problem? Lack of money. The original report had only $4 billion to fund 25 years of improvements. That’s not enough to do much of anything in the way of improvements.

Who they talked to: Dave Neely, the White River National Forest’s new district ranger for the Eagle and Holy Cross districts of the forest. The discussion was mostly a get-acquainted session. The commissioners and Neely talked about pine beetles, road maintenance and land exchanges.

What’s next? Both Neely and the commissioners promised to keep in touch.

Present: Jon Stavney, Peter Runyon.

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