Vail Valley Voices: Put buses on the railways |

Vail Valley Voices: Put buses on the railways

Scott Wirth
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado –As a longtime Vail Valley local, observer and dreamer, I would like to describe the situation as I see it and suggest a method to improve upon the status quo.

ECO is a great service to the county and should be commended and supported. However, it faces certain natural obstacles, namely, weather, traffic, road closures, high fuel consumption and obtuse rout-ing.

Weather has both direct and indirect negative impacts on ECO. Snow and ice cause traffic to slow, a risk of danger from accidents and road closures. Getting ECO off the roads would eliminate all these problems.

Fuel consump-tion can be measured in dollars spent and pollution emitted.

Rubber tired vehicles consume a great amount of fuel due to the rolling resistance. The less fuel con-sumed, the better. ECO takes forever, largely because it travels on I-70 and High-way 6 and must divert to most of its stops. These diversions take time as well as adding mileage, which further adds to the cost of opera-tion and pollution.

I propose that a special trans-portation district be formed, much like the water and sanitation dis-trict. The new district should then purchase the rail corridor from Gypsum to Leadville. Yeah, I know, nothing new so far. Here comes the twist.

The national railway system (live rail) is heavily regulated by the fed-eral government, which creates many barriers to operations. These barriers raise the cost of commuter rail and make it cost-prohibitive. If however the rails were disconnect-ed from the national railway sys-tem at Gypsum and Leadville, a private system would be created.

ECO buses could be fitted with steel wheels bolted on in place of the current rims and tires. The cost of this would be hundreds or thou-sands of times less than the pur-chase of railroad engines and pas-senger cars. Ever see the railway maintenance vehicles on the rails in Glenwood Canyon or know the history of the Galloping Goose?

Fuel consumption would be dra-matically reduced by steel wheels on steel rails and the carefully engi-neered gentle railway grades. Pol-lution caused by the manufacture, wearing out and disposal of all those tires would be eliminated. A snowplow could also be converted and quickly and easily plow the route, no more weather or traffic delays. The route would be very direct and close to most of the major existing stops: the trans-portation center in Avon, Freedom Park in Edwards, the Forest Ser-vice, Minturn and Leadville. A shuttle bus could run to Vail until a spur line could be built.

The tourist railroad in Leadville ( Leadville, Colorado and Southern Rail-road) has already accomplished part of this. They are disconnected from the national rail system and are “deregulated.” If the practicality of mounting modified wheels on the buses and the fuel savings were to be tested, perhaps they would allow use of their rails for this purpose.

As a fringe benefit, imagine the tourist interest, the rail buffs and the transporta-tion officials from around the world that would come to see it in action!

Scott Wirth is an Edwards resident.

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