DENVER — State transportation officials are looking to move forward with a plan to bring high-speed rail to the entire Front Range.
The plan, being called Front Range Passenger Rail, would impact roughly 85 percent of Colorado’s population, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Officials are expecting populations along the Interstate 25 corridor to grow by 1.7 million people in the next 25 years.
“All of those people aren’t going to want to be traveling on I-25 at that point, so this will give them options,” says project director Randy Grauberger.
Grauberger says they’ve already ruled out light rail because it would be too slow to travel the 173-mile route.
“We need higher speeds to be competitive with the interstate system,” he says.
Speeds would likely be around 80 miles an hour, which is similar to the A-Line from downtown Denver to Denver International Airport.
Charles Albi, the former Colorado Railroad Museum Director, says a lot of hurdles stand between the idea and reality.
“It is do-able. We have the ability to do it, but we’ve got to develop the will to do it,” he says.
Albi says acquiring land to build a new rail line would be extremely costly and difficult, so state officials will likely have to convince BNSF to let them use the existing line.
“It’s not like back in the day where you had wide open prairie, and you could build anywhere you wanted,” he says.
Similar routes exist between Milwaukee and Chicago, and in the Pacific Northwest between Seattle and Eugene, Oregon.
“People talk about the great trains in Europe and in China. There’s a reason for that. Population density. And we’re getting to that point,” says Albi.
CDOT officials do not have a price tag for the project yet, and say the earliest we could see it in place would be 2023.
It’s also unclear how it will be funded.
Officials hope to know more by the end of the summer.