WINDSOR — Zipping at about 150 mph along Interstate 25 from Fort Collins to Pueblo may sound like a pipe dream, but officials with the Colorado Department of Transportation are actively working to make it a real possibility.
CDOT representatives led a presentation Wednesday at the Windsor Recreation Center, 250 N. 11th St., detailing the specifics of the second stage of the feasibility study exploring just what it would take to bring a high-speed rail system to northern Colorado. Officials explained a series of five scenarios with different proposed routes navigating the Denver-metro area along with the subsequent planning that could make traveling to Denver International Airport in 30 minutes or less a reality.
As expected, much of the concern among the 40 residents and elected officials from the Windsor, Greeley, Fort Collins and even Cheyenne who were on hand hinged on how best to fund the up-front capital costs, estimated to be between $11 billion-$15 billion.
“If we’re going to be a global player, then we have to offer travel choices to our residents and to our employees,” said David Krutsinger, transit and rail program manager with CDOT.
He likened the goals of high-speed rail across the Front Range — and a loftier project through the mountains — to the early days of planning the interstate system, or even further to the 1800s when railroads first put Colorado on the map.
“The timing of it and the funding of it is all up to Colorado residents,” he added. “We’re not trying to hard-sell this thing. This is an option.”
That was one thing that everyone in attendance walked away knowing — there are options. Those options include federal grants, tax increases and other funding streams. Partnerships with systems that already are in place also could cut costs.
That said, it’s not a short time line. Krutsinger said it could take more than 10 years of continued studies, analysis and grant writing before the project progresses. More importantly, he said, was ensuring transportation planners and the general public remain on the same page.
Another round of open houses and informational meetings is expected to take place in the fall. Leaders will recap the summer’s advances in planning and public input and further solidify a plan to get the project moving.
Plans are still in the works for a commuter rail system along U.S. 287 through Fort Collins, Loveland and into Denver, and the two projects are not mutually exclusive, Krutsinger said. The proposed commuter rail system would have about 20 stops and an average speed of 40 mph compared to three stops and 150 mph speeds with the high-speed system, serving different needs among residents.
“It’s the difference between traveling on an interstate highway and an arterial road.”