COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Colorado is one step closer to the creation of a Front Range Passenger Rail, after lawmakers advanced a bill this week that would create the necessary funding for the system.
Senate Bill 21-238, sponsored by Senate President Leroy Garcia (D - Pueblo), cleared the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee in a vote of 6-1 on Tuesday.
The legislation seeks to establish a Front Range Passenger Rail District, stretching from Wyoming to New Mexico. The district would consist of more than a dozen Colorado counties, including El Paso and Pueblo, with the ability to oversee the rail project's planning and development.
"This district is based on the commission's model to have 16 members, various experts including those who would be non-voting members including someone from Colorado Department of Transportation, Amtrak and the BNSF," Garcia said.
Most notably, a board of directors would have the authority to levy an 0.8% sales tax hike to fund operations. If established, the board would hold its first meeting by May, 2022.
"We would hope that this commission would be ready to hit the ground running. Again, it's with a number of experts who see this as an opportunity."
This follows an earlier announcement from the Biden Administration, proposing a $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan, with $80 billion assigned to Amtrak rail repairs, improvements and more than 30 new route expansions, including a route from Pueblo to Cheyenne, Wyoming.
"I think we're very ripe for that conversation, given the conjunction. I think we can continue to invest in transportation, roads and bridges, but we have to to be wiling to have a conversation about the future of transportation in Colorado," Garcia said.
During a news conference earlier in April, Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn and President Stephen Gardner reinforced their commitment to partnering with Colorado on the project, noting its level of priority, regardless of additional funding from the Biden Administration.