High-speed train in Vail Valley by 2015?
EAGLE COUNTY – Hopping a train and taking in the scenery on the way to Denver or Grand Junction could soon be an option for motorists who are weary from traveling along the long and winding roads of Interstate 70. The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority, based out of Westminster, wants to establish high-speed commuter rail from Denver International Airport along the I-70 corridor to Grand Junction.”Our goal is to have a train that can travel at 125 miles per hour and will make stops at all the ski resorts along Interstate 70,” said Bob Briggs, executive director of Rocky Mountain Rail Authority. “It is exciting to think about, and it’s something we think is really needed.”The rail authority is also working on building rail from Casper, Wyo., to Albuquerque, N.M.For some, it’s a pie-in-the-sky goal but would be a welcome amenity if it can be done.”I seriously doubt it will actually happen since they have been talking about it for years and nothing has happened yet,” Eagle-Vail resident Anne Beddles said. “If they could get it done, the possibilities would be endless. Tourism would benefit, and people would probably go to Denver more often, too.”If voters statewide approve a 2008 ballot initiative led by a Blue Ribbon commission developed by Gov. Bill Ritter to study commuter rail throughout Colorado, the system could be built by 2015, Briggs said. The first step in making the dream a reality was raising enough money to conduct a feasibility study to determine where best to build a track and what type of track to use, Briggs said.The rail authority has raised $311,000 from communities that would be affected by the trains as a 20 percent match to $1.25 million the Colorado Department of Transportation granted the authority for the feasibility study, Briggs said. Eagle County did not contribute to the feasibility study, said Commissioner Sara Fisher.”We didn’t feel it was appropriate to contribute at this time because it is still unclear what Eagle County will gain from this one plan,” Fisher said. “We do, however, support looking into how commuter rail could benefit the county.”Summit and Garfield counties have given money to help fund the initial study, as did the Roaring Fork Regional Transportation Authority, Briggs said. “Now that we have the funding we need, we are going to take the next step and determine how this can be done,” Briggs said. “There’s still a lot that needs to be figured out, like if we should try to go up and over mountains along the way or just poke holes through for tunnels.”The goal of the rail authority is to use trains and tracks of advanced technology similar to the commuter train system in Japan, Briggs said. The “advanced line” will run from the Denver airport to Dotsero before switching to a track that is compatible with the existing ones, he said. “I would love to see a train come through the valley, especially if it’s a high-speed monorail,” Edwards resident Michael Turk said. “That’s just the trick we need to catch us up to the increase in traffic on Interstate 70 and keep us ahead of the game as we continue to grow.”Staff Writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or email@example.com.