Rail should stop in Vail, study says | VailDaily.com

Rail should stop in Vail, study says

Chris Outcalt
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL ” Vail, Colorado is the best spot in Eagle County for a high-speed rail station, according to a study by the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority.

The 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 August. The group completed part of the study this week, which identified Vail as a high priority spot for a station along the would-be railway.

“Stations are one of the biggest factors in this study,” said Clear Creek County Commissioner Harry Dale, who also heads the rail authority. “Our challenge is to identify those areas with the greatest ridership potential and find ways to connect them.”

The study identified Avon, the Eagle County Airport and Gypsum as options for secondary stops in Eagle County.

“The main stations either have a large population base or a really popular destination,” Dale said.

Avon Mayor Ron Wolfe questioned the study’s designation of Vail as a priority stop over Avon.

“I think what that missed was that Vail is the town at the base of Vail Mountain and Avon is the town at the base of Beaver Creek,” Wolfe said.

It might make more sense to have one centralized stop in Eagle County that feeds into a local transportation system, Wolfe said.

“The more stops there are on railroads the less efficient they are,” he said.

The rail authority identified 26 possible spots for stations starting at Denver International Airport and ending in Grand Junction. The study also considered what routes and technology make the most sense for a railway.

Steep grades along I-70 could limit some of the rail options.

“The problem with any technology is the steeper the grade, the slower you go,” Dale said.

Vail Pass was identified as a problem spot, Dale said.

“Everyone knows the problems with Vail Pass,” he said.

Deviating the rail from I-70 to follow Highway 91 or building a track near Tennessee Pass to Minturn, are alternatives to crossing Vail Pass, Dale said. The rail would also likely need to tunnel through, or be built around, Glenwood Canyon and Loveland Pass, he said.

High-speed electric trains and monorails that can travel between 220 and 300 mph should be considered for an I-70 railway because diesel trains don’t travel fast enough to climb through the mountains efficiently, according to the study.

Commissioner Sara Fisher said having three rail stops in the area would be a benefit to the county.

“Stops through the valley would connect us in a way we’ve never been connected to the Front Range,” Fisher said.

The rail authority plans to complete the entire study, which will include cost information, by June 2009.

Wolfe said he doesn’t think building a rail from the Denver airport to Grand Junction is cost effective.

“It’s going to cost billions of dollars,” Wolfe said. “You have to have some pretty hefty fairs and passenger counts, or it has to be subsidized pretty heavily by some sort of tax stream.”

Dale said the study was started with the intent of coming up with an option that could be started on in 10-15 years.

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or coutcalt@vaildaily.com.

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