Rocky Mountain Rail Authority
The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority (RMRA), a multi-jurisdictional government body comprised of 52 Colorado cities, towns, counties and transit authorities, has determined that high-speed rail is feasible in Colorado’s I-70 and I-25 corridors.
Colorado has a unique transportation challenge. Our mountain resorts and metropolitan areas play a special role as national and international attractions. The vast majority of our state’s commercial and recreational centers are connected by two highway corridors, I-70 and I-25.
I‐70 serves as a gateway to more than twenty world-class recreation resorts including Aspen/Snowmass, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Steamboat Springs and Vail. Central City and Blackhawk have formed a multi-casino complex that attracts large numbers of visitors every year.
I‐25 connects Colorado’s growing metropolitan areas along the Front Range. The Front Range starts in the North at Fort Collins, continues through Denver to Colorado Springs, and finally ends at Trinidad. These communities comprise rapidly growing cities and towns with significant commercial and recreational centers.
As a result, the I‐25 and I‐70 corridors not only have the conventional intercity travel patterns of business, commuter and social trip making, but its demand is overlaid by very substantial, highly focused flows of local communities along I‐25 and out-of-state tourists from Denver International Airport to the resorts and vacation spots along both the I-70 and I-25 corridors. All of this combines to challenge Colorado’s transportation infrastructure in both corridors.
The 18‐month feasibility study, conducted with significant financial and technical support from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), focused on determining whether options exist that are capable of meeting Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) technical, financial and economic criteria for high-speed rail feasibility.
The study considered a full range of technology options from conventional Amtrak service (with maximum speeds of 79 mph) through high-speed train and maglev technologies that have maximum speeds of up to 300 mph. It also evaluated a comprehensive set of routes including highway routes, existing and abandoned rail routes, and completely new Greenfield routes. General station locations were also evaluated based on potential market-demand and existing local planning efforts.
Combinations of technologies/routes/stations were analyzed and optimized through a dynamic evaluation process that focused on technical and economic feasibility. In addition, input was gathered from a steering committee comprised of technical and policy level representatives that met monthly and from teams of local agency stakeholders throughout both corridors that met at key study milestones.
Among the most critical FRA feasibility criteria for high‐speed rail are:
• Positive (>1.0) operating ratio – This means that, unlike highways and local transit systems, the project does not require any government subsidies to cover its cost of operation; and
• Positive (>1.0) cost‐benefit ratio – This means that for every dollar of capital and operating costs, the project creates economic benefits greater than one dollar.
The study identified a handful of options between Fort Collins and Pueblo in the I‐25 corridor and Denver International Airport and Eagle County Airport in the I‐70 corridor that exceed the FRA’s threshold for high‐speed rail feasibility.
For illustrative purposes, one of those options was further optimized and used to develop a sample implementation plan as part of this report. That implementation plan identifies four potential phases for having high-speed rail operational in Colorado as early as 2021.
It is important to note that, as a feasibility study, this study does not make any absolute decisions. Its focus is to determine if feasible options exist and warrant additional analysis. Future studies (e.g. a State Rail Plan, a local transit integration plan and necessary environmental clearance studies) will be responsible for making the ultimate decisions about alignments, technologies, station locations, financing approaches and implementation schedules. Therefore, it is important to recognize that the options analyzed in this report are not the only options that should be reviewed in future studies.
The complete Final Report will be available on this website following the March 26, 2010 RMRA Board meeting.
Thank you for your continued interest and involvement in the RMRA’s study.
Rocky Mountain Rail Authority