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:
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…
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.
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.