High speed rail proposed in Colorado

Yesterday, Colorado officials released its preferred solutions to solving the problem of congestion on I-70, now favoring construction of a futuristic high speed rail system from Jefferson County (C-470) to Eagle County Airport. The cost to taxpayers would be $16 billion to $20 billion.

Interstate 70 and Eagle County Airport serve the wealthy Colorado ski resorts of Aspen, Vail, Winter Park, Keystone, Breckenridge and others. While the freeway runs fairly smoothly on weekdays, on Sunday afternoons it’s slow going as the skiers and outdoor recreationalists leave. The freeway cuts through narrow and extremely sloped canyons, with serious rockslide issues, steep mountain passes and several tunnels through the mountains.

While it’s hard to imagine that many skiers will be eager to schlep suitcases packed with expensive clothing and their ski gear on a train, it’s even harder to believe that this high speed rail idea will be the first in the country to prove cost effective or profitable. As a Heartland Institute analysis found, claims that high speed rail can be profitable are largely bogus. “Despite every piece of evidence pointing toward an impending disaster, rail advocates refuse to see the financial disaster that is looming for them,” wrote Wendell Cox, senior fellow at the Heartland Institute who also served three terms on the LA County Transportation Commission.

Nevertheless, Colorado news has been all abuzz with the proposal:

CDOT study puts I-70 improvements at up to $20 billion

Colorado officials today released a revised study of potential transportation improvements for the Interstate 70 mountain corridor with a “preferred alternative” that could cost between $16 billion and $20 billion over the next 40 years. The preferred option includes highway widening along key segments of the 118-mile portion of I-70 between the C-470 junction and the Eagle County Regional Airport, as well as a fully elevated “advanced guideway” transit system over that same distance.

The transit guideway would require new tunnel bores at the Twin Tunnels near Idaho Springs and at the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels, according to the revised study…

In 2004, CDOT released an earlier draft of the I-70 environmental study that tilted toward expanding highway capacity in the corridor and downplayed the potential for an advanced guideway train, primarily because of the extremely high cost of such a rail solution…. When some residents and local officials in the corridor balked at an alternative that they believed favored a wider highway over rail, CDOT shifted gears and in 2007 began a “collaborative effort” with numerous entities in the corridor to reach a consensus solution for I-70 congestion. That consensus view is embedded in the preferred alternative now under review…

High-speed rail options for I-70 corridor on display Thursday in Golden

Anyone interested in getting a glimpse of the ideas being floated for high-speed rail between Jefferson County and the Eagle County Airport can do so Thursday…. That includes the magnetic levitation — or MAGLEV — rail trains that are currently being used in Europe. The $1.8 million feasibility study of the mountain corridor options is scheduled to be completed by fall 2013.

CDOT Considers Options To Ease Congestion On I-70

The Colorado Department of Transportation is working on solutions to the congestion along Interstate 70 from the mountains to Denver…Those proposals were presented at a forum at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds on Thursday. Originally 18 proposals were submitted and that has been narrowed to less than a dozen… The options range from using renewable energy as a power source for mass transit to different types of rails and cars….

Some of the options presented include a monorail system with long trains and other more revolutionary ideas of smaller transit cars placed on a fixed rail. “We actually don’t have one single wheel on the entire vehicle . We actually use the train with magnetic levitation,” said American Maglev Technology Inc. spokeswoman Emily Morris… “We think it’s very safe, feasible and ready for deployment here in Colorado and across the world,” said Morris.

10 responses to “High speed rail proposed in Colorado

  1. “Despite every piece of evidence pointing toward an impending disaster, rail advocates refuse to see the financial disaster that is looming for them,” wrote Wendell Cox, senior fellow at the Heartland Institute.


    There will be no financial disaster for them; they will be using Other People’s Money.

  2. I have heard these people with rapid transit type solutions for decades. The real reason this will not work is that people traveling on I 70 West through the Eisenhouer tunnel are going to the western part of the state. If everyone using I 70 were going to the same destination instead of most of western Colorado, there may be a solution.

  3. Friend of John Galt

    I had family living above Golden, CO, just off I-70, a bit west of the C-470/I-70 junction) and I’ve driven the greater portion of that route numerous times — plus I worked the longest portion of my career for a freight railroad.

    I can unequivocally state that building a “high speed train” over that route is shear madness. To do so would be horribly expensive, under the best case situation, but there will, undoubtedly be discoveries along the way that create cost overruns easily doubling or tripling the initial cost estimates. To say nothing about finding real live riders to use such a rail system.

    The “powers that be” are fascinated with 19th century technology due to the best case efficiency of steel wheels on steel rails. It is true that freight railroads can haul a ton of freight a mile for just a fraction of a gallon of fuel. The operative word is “freight.” Most rail passenger cars can carry between 50 and 100 passengers depending on size and configuration. “Heavy” rail systems have cars weighing between 50 and 85 tons. (Light rail (trolley cars) weigh a bit less.) The weight of the passengers is not a significant factor (typically 6 or 7 tons, if car is filled to capacity).

    This compares to a typical freight car that weighs between 20 and 35 tons — and carries 100 tons or more. So, passengers are a nominal weight, carried in a relatively heavy car using far more fuel to go faster (typical freight trains average about 45 mph over flatter routes and much slower in mountains, down to 10 to 15 mph) — Of course, passengers would never tolerate traveling at the slow speeds of freight trains. But high speed rail requires massive investment in track structures — and will require substantial ongoing maintenance in a mountainous environment as required by the topography between the end points. It would doubtless be cheaper (for the taxpayer) to pay people to ride busses over the route instead of building such a boondoggle.

    Of course, the real issue is that politicians and favored contractors love the “money train” in “high speed rail.” (Just look at the California High Speed Rail project that will probably never be completed.)

    While the traffic problem on I-70 in Colorado is generally limited to the weekends, there is some economic sense to improving (only) the highway, since serving more skiers and other tourists is a major contributor to the state’s economy. There is near-zero economic justification for building trains, aside from the false truths held by the government planners and greens.

    • John, you simply don’t understand: it will be an advanced guideway train.

      Ha ha ha ha.

      High speed requires long radius turns. In the mountains. Uh huh.

      When the Sunday PM eastbound traffic gets bad enough, people will start coming back earlier, or the next day.

      One other question: Why high speed? What’s wrong with regular speed?

      • “One other question: Why high speed? What’s wrong with regular speed?”

        When it comes to rail in the US, high speed means 75-90mph. I don’t think the US really knows how to do true “High Speed” rail. Heck, the city trains in Tokyo travel faster between stations half a mile apart than most trails in the US travel on the flattest of ground.

  4. but trains are soooo Euro-chic……

  5. With all the changes going on in our nation,where can one go to learn of the wisdom of such decissions..It could Foster the teamwork neccesary to rebuild our lives and ecconomy.That is expected from our representatives.

  6. Round trip from Richmond, VA, to DC (~200 miles total) is $66-$94/person (depending on time of day). Driving is ~$40 (fuel, parking, Meto) for two. If the same economics are in effect in this Colorado boondoggle, how much congestion on I70 is going to be relieved? I95 is generally pretty congested with all the fine rail system. However, if the good folks in Colorado and the ski resorts want a high-speed rail, I don’t mind them ponying up the $$.

  7. Rumor has it that TSA and the airlines are conspiring to make Amtrack and high speed rail travel seem more attractive.

  8. We could build a lot of road to Vail with 20 billion. Most of the traffic is gone once you get past west Vail.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s