Letter: More than a railroad
The workforce housing issue for nearby ski resorts is a continuing problem as clearly stated in the guest opinion from Hilary Cooper, a San Miguel County Commissioner, and Kelly McNicholas Kury, a Pitkin County Commissioner, that ran in the April 10 edition of the Vail Daily. Real estate is going to find its highest and best value and the Vail Valley is certainly a testament to that. Somehow it just seems that affordable employee housing in Vail and Avon is like putting a square peg in a round hole — it’s not a good fit.
Former Vail Town Council member Greg Moffet states that he feels remote locations is not an answer to employee housing. As a five-year seasonal employee faced with a 70-mile commute to work, I would agree with him as things are currently — remote commuting can be problematic.
But, an idea popped into my head that may be worth some dialogue? What if the rail line from Leadville to Dowd Junction was re-established with an electric train commuter service from Leadville to Dowd Junction? What if the same service was established from Gypsum to where it currently ends in Avon or continue with a new line to Dowd Junction? From Dowd Junction it’s a quick electric bus ride into Vail.
By utilizing this type of service, the impact to the environment would be substantial in a most positive way. The impact for the quality of life for employees both seasonal, full-time, and temporary international employees would be significant. Workers would have an efficient, reliable, safe way to quickly get to work with a minimum impact on the environment.
Rail travel is 95% safer than car travel, greener for the environment with electric or bio-diesel which is 100% carbon neutral, and of course the electric trains would be quiet, a real plus for the sensitive environment.
On February 26, the first electric train in Colorado was delivered to for testing by the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo. The benefits of this train are obvious. It’s: quiet, faster and environmentally-friendly. Global transportation is over 33% electrified, but in the United States it is less than 1%. Also the electric train being tested in Pueblo was manufactured in Utah! Although it’s early for electric trains, they are coming and bio diesel can be an option until the electric trains are ready.
The train can also be so much more than a commuter train or a freight train — this could be a way for tourists and non skiers to visit the historic towns of Leadville and Gypsum. It could also be utilized for a supper/vista ride from Avon along the Eagle River or from Minturn to Leadville, one of the top scenic vistas in Colorado.
Just as Vail had the first gondola in the United States in 1962, maybe Vail can have the first electric train service for employees and guests.
It seems like a win-win for all. It’s a win for the environment, a win for the employees, and a win for the associated towns.