Is high speed rail good for Eagle County?
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” The county commissioners aren’t convinced that a high-speed railway between Denver and the Vail Valley would be good for Eagle County.
The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority ” a collection of representatives from 50 counties, municipalities and other organizations ” started studying the possibility of building high-speed rails along the Interstate 70 and Interstate 25 corridors in June of last year. The study, which identified Vail as a high-priority spot for a station along the would-be railway, is supposed to be complete this summer.
The commissioners said Tuesday there are both pros and cons to the railway idea and that some community input is needed before they would finalize their stance on the topic. And there’s plenty of time to have that discussion, said Commissioner Peter Runyon.
“I’m not sure it serves the interest of the mountain corridor,” Runyon said.
Although the rail could give Front Rangers ” which account for many of the county’s skiers ” a better option for commuting to Vail and Beaver Creek, it could also put pressure on growth in the county, Runyon said.
“If you whisk people from DIA to Vail in an hour and a half, there are implications,” he said. “I talk to a number of people who are concerned about what that kind of quick access to the major metropolitan area would do. You could end up changing the growth dynamic to include primary residents for people working on the Front Range ” that’s a major change.”
The question, in Runyon’s mind, is whether the county wants to go down that road. Commissioner Sara Fisher agrees.
“If we do have mass transit that initiates at DIA or Denver, that will give us reason to have a whole different perspective on land use and development,” Fisher said. “It will force development into our community that we might not otherwise welcome.”
The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority meets this weekend to discuss some of the economic components of the study, such as cost to operate the railway and what fares might be, said Greg Schroeder, a project engineer with the county.
“So far we’ve focused on the technology, and those items are still under way,” Schroeder said. “We’re starting to see more of the economic piece to be developed.”
Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.