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Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
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Location
Denver
The following message will keep AU members up to date on the recent renewed interest in the mountain rail lines for intrastate service. Note the irony of the rescheduling due to the snow.
YI

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Haddaway - CDOT, Emily" <[email protected]>

Subject: Re: January 12th: Join Governor Polis in Winter Park to Learn about the Future of Mountain Rail

Date:
January 9, 2024 at 3:29:37 PM MST

To: undisclosed-recipients:

Hi all,

Those who have RSVP'd for this discussion should have received an update this morning that we are moving this event to earlier in the day due to weather concerns. The meeting will now be held from 10am-11am on Friday. We will still offer both a virtual and in person option. Please continue to use the link above to RSVP if you plan to attend!

Best,

Emily

On Fri, Jan 5, 2024 at 5:15 PM Haddaway - CDOT, Emily <[email protected]> wrote:

Dear Partners,

Happy New Year! I hope this message finds you well. We are thrilled to extend a special invitation to you on behalf of Governor Polis and the Colorado Department of Transportation for a unique event to learn about the Polis - Primavera administration's vision for a Mountain Passenger Rail Network.

The central Rocky Mountains of Colorado present a unique blend of existing rail infrastructure, growing communities and economies, a strong tourist and recreational demand, and a statewide desire to enhance and build a diverse network of mobility. Adding rail to the region's network of transit and mobility options can create a robust transit network that meets the need for multimodal transportation options to preserve the area's economy, natural environment, and unique character, while supporting a just transition for energy communities in the Yampa Valley.

The Colorado Transportation Commission has allocated funding for an initial Service Development Plan that will outline how to accomplish this pivotal policy. Please join us on Friday, January 12th from 2:30pm - 3:30pm to learn more about this initiative and how you can get involved.

Alterra Mountain Company is hosting this event in Winter Park. The meeting will also be offered in a hybrid format if you prefer to join virtually. Space is limited, kindly RSVP using the google form below to confirm your attendance. Upon RSVP, a follow-up email will be sent with the location in Winter Park where the event will be hosted. If you attend virtually, another email will be sent with the Teams meeting information.

When: Friday, January 12th, 2024 2:30-3:30pm

Where: Winter Park and/or Virtual

To RSVP: Mountain Rail Stakeholder Update

Emily Haddaway

Legislative Liaison, Colorado Department of Transportation

505-553-2079 | [email protected]

-----------------------------------------------------------------

FYI:
for readers not familiar with the Colorado scene:

https://colorail.org/
 
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My first thought was to create a Mamma's and Pappa's style song to the threat title in my head....

Interesting if this amounts to something - I keep reading that some of the closed and/or underutilized lines are this close to be reopened.
 
My first thought was to create a Mamma's and Pappa's style song to the threat title in my head....

Interesting if this amounts to something - I keep reading that some of the closed and/or underutilized lines are this close to be reopened.
Many calendar pages have been wasted here on trying for some undesigned new technology to allow high speeds in the mountains. At this point, there are now more people interested in picking off markets that can be served with modern equipment. Success of the WPE has been educational.
 
Here's an excerpt from Governor Polis' "State of the State" speech today (11 Jan 24). It sounds positive, but he has little time left in office. No matter which party comes into the governor's office, there's a tendency to start over on rail issues.
=================================

I want to thank Representatives Jodeh and Woodrow and Senators Hansen and Winter for their efforts to help more Coloradans live in transit-oriented neighborhoods and achieve this powerful vision of more affordable housing and transit in Colorado.

This work is important, but in order to build more housing near reliable transit, we need – you guessed it – transit that actually works.

The distance the average Coloradan drives per year has increased by more than 20% over the past 40 years, and recent data shows that commuters in Denver were stuck in traffic for an average of 54 hours, more than an entire work week.

And time isn’t the only thing getting wasted. Coloradans are spending too much money on gas, to the tune of roughly $1800 per year per driver, not to mention maintenance and depreciation costs.

Thanks to Senate Bill 260 from 2021, which supercharged transportation funding for the state, and significant Federal funding, roads are finally getting better across the state of Colorado, but we’re not done yet. We have the planes, and we have the automobiles, we just need the trains.

For too long passenger rail has been another “moonshot” - out of reach for too many people in our state. Coloradans love the idea, but many people believe it’s not something they’ll see in our lifetimes. Yes it’s big, and yes it’s bold, and I’m here to tell you it’s within reach.

Agatha Christie wrote, “To travel by train is to see nature and human beings…in fact, to see life.”

We have a vision for Front Range and Mountain Rail that will create access points across the state that connect people to more housing, more businesses, and more jobs. Getting people places quicker and less expensively. And we’re going to get it done.

After years of waiting, the pieces are falling into place. The federal government has approved more than $66 Billion - billion with a B - to create a world-class rail system for the country. So it's no longer a question of if the United States will see a massive expansion of passenger rail, but it’s a question of whether Colorado will seize this opportunity and get our fair share of those federal dollars.

With existing tracks, now utilized mostly for commercial rail, we have a unique opportunity to extend daily passenger rail service through the Rocky Mountains. We need to take action to ensure that we get train service from Union Station to west Jefferson County, Winter Park, Steamboat Springs, on to Craig and Hayden, alleviating traffic in our mountain corridors, supporting more housing that’s affordable for the local workforce, and helping our coal-dependent communities strengthen and diversify their economies.

Together we must also deliver on the unfulfilled FASTtracks promise of train service from Union Station to Boulder, Longmont and then on to Loveland and Fort Collins. Again, this isn’t pie–in-the-sky: we can do this through a joint effort between CDOT, RTD and the Front Range Rail district, and we can start now. The problem of unfinished public transit has gone on far too long, and taxpayers are sick and tired of paying for services they’re not getting. [This is an allusion to the planned Denver-Boulder-Longmont commuter rail line. Governor Polis is from Boulder. What gets left out is that millions are being spent on bus priority measures and highway improvements parallel to the rail line.]

If we move boldly this session to seize these unprecedented federal investments we can lock in transformational passenger rail opportunities in time for our 150th birthday in 2026. The story of our state’s founding and early economic success is intertwined with the historic railroad expansion of the 1800s, just as our dreams for the future will be intertwined with the expansion of passenger rail and transit-oriented communities.

I am looking forward to partnering with Senate President Fenberg to ensure we take this opportunity to get it done.

These efforts must be combined with a more expansive, statewide bus system. Colorado has seen the exciting success of Bustang, Snowstang, and Pegasus, which connected nearly 300,000 Coloradans across the state last year alone. And this is a model that we are continuing to expand. But we must go further to improve convenience for all Coloradans while improving our air quality and reducing traffic.

This isn’t something we can do alone. We need reliable regional transit organizations across our state, including in the metro areas. We can have access to better transportation options that meet the needs of all Coloradans, but it requires us to reimagine what that means. And of course that includes RTD. With state investments like free fares for better air, we are seeing some progress, and enhanced ridership. But there's more we need to do. We must reexamine governance and operational efficiencies, expand local partnerships, build on the work of the RTD Accountability Committee, and give RTD and transit agencies across our state the tools, structure, and financial resources to deliver better service to more people, creating a transportation system that meets the needs of Coloradans while supporting more housing near transportation hubs and improving our air quality. I look forward to working with Senator Winter and Representative Lindstedt on legislation to get us.

So let’s actually deliver on the housing and transit solutions that Coloradans are demanding. As Yoda would say, “Do or Do Not, there is no try.”

We must do, and we must SHOW Coloradans what it looks like when there is more housing for every budget and more convenient and lower cost mobility statewide for every resident.
 
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/c...1&cvid=4c3ff87d60c74aa1886364d2222cb934&ei=44

People have noticed the overlap between the commuter rail plans and the regional rail plans. It was never a secret, but some people never noticed it. The long-distance planning overlaps it all.

Denver<>Boulder<>Longmont = RTD commuter rail.
Colorado Springs<>Denver<>Boulder<>Longmont<>Fort Collins = FRDistrict initial.
NM Border <> Denver <> WY Border = Amtrak or equivalent.

It would make sense for RTD to just pay its share to let FRDistrict run the service, as it was planned to be an oddball dmu service, while the rest of RTD's lines are electric.
 
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https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/c...1&cvid=4c3ff87d60c74aa1886364d2222cb934&ei=44

People have noticed the overlap between the commuter rail plans and the regional rail plans. It was never a secret, but some people never noticed it. The long-distance planning overlaps it all.

Denver<>Boulder<>Longmont = RTD commuter rail.
Colorado Springs<>Denver<>Boulder<>Longmont<>Fort Collins = FRDistrict initial.
NM Border <> Denver <> WY Border = Amtrak or equivalent.

It would make sense for RTD to just pay its share to let FRDistrict run the service, as it was planned to be an oddball dmu service, while the rest of RTD's lines are electric.
I read the article from the Post. I assume that the existing line is the BNSF line through Broomfield, Louisville, Lafayette, Boulder, and Longmont; and then on to Berthoud and Ft. Collins. What are the odds of RTD recognizing that much of what they need to worry about is already in place, including much of the planning for stations?
 
Well................ although I worked in Service Planning at RTD for 29½ years, I had little to do with Boulder and its satellites. However, I do know that the people planning the line were well aware of the available features. Some factors that stalled it were:
  • Increased value of line capacity due to growth of freight traffic (Bakken oil, for example).
  • Sharp increase in commodity prices and construction costs.
  • Demands for unwarranted 30-minute headways all day, requiring more double track.
  • Demands for speeds high enough to match hypothetical highway times (highways are more direct but delay prone). Some segments would have to reach 90 mph.
  • Demands for the entire line to be opened at once.
  • Demands for a priority highway coach service parallel (which they have).
  • Route turned down by FTA for federal funding for high cost per rider.
In 1966 I learned a lot as a summer student intern in the City of Lake Oswego, so I wasn't surprised that people of a certain segment of society would want to have their cake AND eat it, too.

Berthoud and Fort Collins are outside of the RTD but are in the newly formed Front Range rail district. The curvy part of the line is in the RTD segment, so the longer the run, the less of a factor it is.

In 2017, a Flatiron Flyer boards in Denver. The priority route has its own numbering system, separate from other highway routes. Highway improvements for buses on US36 became a priority after voter approval of metro-wide rail lines.
P1040829k.JPG
 
Thanks for your detailed explanation. I'm a Boulder native, and still visit once or twice a year. It's interesting that even with the improvements US 36 still has delays in the same places, and some of those places had delays 50 years ago. The Flatirons Flyer busses do run in the express lane, but I wonder if the run time from downtown Boulder to downtown Denver is much different from what it was with the pre-RTD Denver-Boulder Bus Co. Of course as you mentioned, the demographics of 1974 Boulder and 2024 Boulder are different which probably explains some of what is happening.
 
I read the article from the Post. I assume that the existing line is the BNSF line through Broomfield, Louisville, Lafayette, Boulder, and Longmont; and then on to Berthoud and Ft. Collins.
Just a slight correction…Lafayette is not on that BNSF, former Colorado and Southern RR line.
It was on the former CB&Q “Buckwheat” line between Broomfield and Longmont, enroute to Lyons. I believe it is now gone.
 
Just a slight correction…Lafayette is not on that BNSF, former Colorado and Southern RR line.
It was on the former CB&Q “Buckwheat” line between Broomfield and Longmont, enroute to Lyons. I believe it is now gone.
I think that Louisville is the city that is on the C&S line, rather than Lafayette. Thanks to annexations, it's hard to keep them straight. Lafayette is on what's left of the line to Lyons.
 
My guess, and only a guess, is that Longmont is in Boulder County and part of RTD. And the original plan was for the RTD rail project was to connect Denver to Boulder and Longmont.
Correct. The media and a lot of the public are confused by the three different projects on that route: RTD, Front Range, and FRA Long-Distance. One idea being discussed by thoughtful people would be to absorb the projected RTD service into the Front Range service, including the money allocated by RTD for suburban service. This makes special sense because the RTD service was originally planned to be dmu's, incompatible with the rest of the all-electric system. As long as fares are integrated, the Boulder-Longmont service would fit best with the Front Range service.

The equipment used on the special was the WPE train set.

Here's the boundary line for RTD:
DEN Spring Summer 2009 025k.jpg

A note: the portion of this line between Denver and Boulder was electrified and operated as the Denver & Interurban. Plan was to extend the wire to Fort Collins, which is why they kept the street-running and kept control of the city streetcars in Fort Collins. When that no longer seemed likely, the city lines were sold to Fort Collins and the interurban was turned into the Denver-Boulder Bus Co. That company is a direct corporate ancestor of the RTD's Boulder Intercity Division.

Berthoud is already demanding to be included as a Front Range stop
DEN Spring Summer 2009 027.jpg

Although urban sprawl wants into this area, some land is protected by open space funds or conservation easements. DEN Spring Summer 2009 024k.jpg
 
I've seen several pictures of the Denver and Interurban's Boulder station at the intersection of Broadway and Pearl, and of trains crossing the east side of the CU campus. Parts of the right of way from the campus to downtown are still visible.
 
Brings back nice memories of my year, (1973), driving for the old Denver Boulder Bus Company....
One of the things I most remember, was I ran the first trip that they ever operated from Boulder to Longmont, up the Diagonal Highway (C-119). It used to depart at 5:50 AM. When I reached Longmont, I would lay over about 10 minutes, and then I would become the third section of the first Colorado Motorway trip coming down from Fort Collins to Denver. After picking up at Lafayette and Broomfield, I was full and ran express to the old Greyhound Terminal at 17th and Glenarm, in Denver. A fourth section would start from Broomfield and fill up in Westminster...sometimes even a fifth! Both Denver Boulder Bus Company, and Colorado Motorway were owned by the James family, a legacy going back into the days when T L James was a founder of the old Burlington Trailways company. Colorado Motorway ran US-287 all the way to Laramie.

I left Denver Boulder in 1974 to go back to work for Continental Trailways...the RTD took over DB shortly after I left...
 
.....
I left Denver Boulder in 1974 to go back to work for Continental Trailways...the RTD took over DB shortly after I left...
Thanx for the insight! When the Motor Bus Society held their 1990 national convention in Denver, we arranged for them to be at the throat of Market Street Station (now gone) for photos. They were thrilled by the parade of odd-ball heritage equipment, including remnants from Denver-Boulder Bus Company. We kept announcing that they would be retired when new buses came in, but the ridership kept growing, so they'd grind on.

Due to union agreements, the extra board for the RTD Boulder Intercity Division worked differently than in the rest of the system. There were some other quirks. We handled Trailways package express, and for all I know, there may still be the position titled "Baggageman" in the Boulder Station.
 
Excerpt from a ColoRail news release:

Front Range Passenger Rail got a boost in recent weeks with a new funding plan and an exciting demonstration train trip organized by Colorado Governor Jared Polis.

Polis is Colorado’s most rail-friendly governor since the advent of expressways. He is actively pushing for passenger trains, both along the Front Range urban corridor and over to the Western Slope. He worked with Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), BNSF Railway, and Amtrak to run the demo train from Denver to Longmont on Thursday, March 7. He invited state legislators, county commissioners, mayors and city council members, and other officials and activists to ride with him.

The activists included ColoRail President Jim Souby who has advocated for demonstration runs. “Taking leaders and advocates on the Southwest Chief was a key element in ColoRail’s campaign to keep that train serving Colorado communities," Souby noted. "There’s no better way to convince people of the value of passenger rail service than taking them on a train.”

The Denver Post quoted Polis: “This was a demonstration train, but we’re breaking that psychological barrier for people who think we’re never gonna get it done to show the first passengers have been delivered… This is the first time we got passengers from Denver Union Station to right here in Longmont, so it’s an exciting opportunity in the future.”

The train used Amtrak’s Winter Park Express equipment, which is available for other uses on Monday through Thursday. It had engines on both ends because there is no turn-around wye in Longmont. Amtrak chose conductor and passenger train advocate Brad Swartzwelter to head the train.

KUNC radio quoted Swartzwelter, who offered a personal message over the train’s loudspeakers: ““This is a huge moment in my life. I grew up in Boulder. I’ve spent my entire life watching freight trains on the line that we just joined, and I can’t tell you what an honor it is to now be the conductor of the first passenger train on the main line towards Boulder.”
 
KUNC radio quoted Swartzwelter, who offered a personal message over the train’s loudspeakers: ““This is a huge moment in my life. I grew up in Boulder. I’ve spent my entire life watching freight trains on the line that we just joined, and I can’t tell you what an honor it is to now be the conductor of the first passenger train on the main line towards Boulder.”
Except for the times the SFZ detoured over that route between Denver and Cheyenne, right? ;)
 
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ColoRail reports on the end of the legislative session.

State passenger rail gets new fees money
Colorado legislature approves first continuous financing for transit
In early May the Colorado Legislature passed two bills that will raise more than $160 million annually for public transit, including passenger rail and buses. Governor Polis is expected to sign both bills.

SB24-184 will raise about $50 million per year through a $3 fee on car rentals. This money appears to be dedicated entirely to rail projects. The bill also authorizes RTD to extend its planned Northwest rail service to Fort Collins, which would make it an “intercity” line eligible for large federal rail grants.

In its first full year of funding from a fee on oil and gas production, SB24-230 will raise at about $116 million per year for “clean transit” and $59 million to mitigate oil and gas impacts to wildlife. The transit money would be split three ways: 70% would go to local transit service, 10% to a competitive local transit grant fund, and 20% to just passenger rail. So passenger rail would receive at least $23 million in the first full year. It could be more because the 80% allocated to transit does not differentiate between buses, trains, or other forms of transit.

The bill also pushes RTD to finish its Northwest and North lines by stating RTD “shall prioritize” their completion, and by requiring a report by July 1, 2025 that “demonstrates” how the district will complete those projects by Dec. 31, 2034.

Meanwhile, the Front Range Passenger Rail District (FRPR) is considering asking voters within its territory for a general sales tax that would help fund passenger rail development and operations from Ft. Collins to Pueblo, and later to Trinidad. District board members are debating the size of the tax and whether to put it before voters this year or in 2026.

All these funding sources can be used as 20% matching money toward a grant from the Federal Rail Administration. The FRA is currently doling out money appropriated in President Biden’s 2021 Infrastructure Act and Colorado’s Front Range is one of the leading corridors for those funds.

The two new fees are the first time our state government has created ongoing funding for passenger rail. They create a possibility that part of Front Range Rail, from Denver to Ft. Collins, could be built without a new sales tax, and thus without needing voter approval. Because the route north from Denver coincides with RTD’s proposed Northwest Rail line to Boulder and Ft. Collins, this could solve the old problem that FasTracks has not generated enough money to build that increasingly expensive rail line.
ColoRail to meet June 1
ColoRail will meet in Boulder, CO on the morning of June 1 to discuss recent developments for passenger rail in Colorado.
Date: June 1, 2024
Time: 9:00 am to noon
Location: Hyatt Place, 2280 Junction Pl, Boulder, CO 80301
New ColoRail web site debuts
ColoRail recently updated our website and design styles. This email uses our new logo designs.
News reports on the oil and gas bills’ deal:
Colorado Public Radio
Colorado Sun
Colorado Newsline
 
So RTD is planning to extend its NW line all the way to Fort Collins, now? I thought that Larimer County opted not to join the RTD tax district? Have they changed their minds, or is this "Front Range" a new entity that they are a part of? Kind of confusing to me, at least.... 🤷‍♂️
 
So RTD is planning to extend its NW line all the way to Fort Collins, now? I thought that Larimer County opted not to join the RTD tax district? Have they changed their minds, or is this "Front Range" a new entity that they are a part of? Kind of confusing to me, at least.... 🤷‍♂️
Larimer County's non-interest in joining RTD was because it already had a muni system in Fort Collins and subsequently one was set up in Loveland. We've had good relations with them, as far as I know.

The Front Range District is an overlap to run intercity service, with boundaries stretching from Trinidad to Fort Collins. It mainly was set up due to CDOT having done studies for 30 years.

The idea of extending planned RTD commuter rail from Longmont to Fort Collins came up in this legislative session as a consequence of how federal funding is distributed. I haven't read the bill yet, but the financing will be interesting.
 
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