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El Paso County Commissioners oppose Front Range Passenger Rail proposal

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Less than a week after Colorado U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper announced his support for the plan to build a high-speed passenger rail line from Pueblo to Cheyenne, Wyoming, El Paso County's Board of Commissioners voiced their opposition.

During a legislative update at Tuesday's regular meeting, four of the five commissioners explained why they're against a proposed bill in the state senate that would create a taxing district and levy a one-cent sales tax to help fund the project.

"I like the concept of it," said Commissioner Holly Williams. "But this doesn’t have any provision in it, that the money stays in El Paso County. A one-cent sales tax generates a lot of money. I'm concerned that the money we generate could be used to pay for the light rail connection from Denver to Boulder that was never completed."

Williams said that she'd rather see money devoted to much-needed local road improvements.

Board Chairman Stan VanderWerf said that the proposed bill doesn't address the first and last mile of the project.

"When you deal with public transportation investments like this, you still have to get someone from their house to the rail, then you have to get from the rail to your place of employment, wherever that destination may be," he said. "The I-25 Gap project includes a benefit for drivers who carpool and use express lanes to ease traffic congestion. That is something we should work on, and work on extensively, before we do a multi-billion-dollar front range rail investment that will likely have low ridership."

Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez said that he has experience as a regular user of a similar rail system in metro Los Angeles.

"It will always be subsidized, it will be an ongoing tax, and as we know, these things always end up being about twice the cost of whatever the government says it’s going to cost,” he said.

Commissioner Carrie Geitner shared her experience of using high-speed rail in Europe and said that she could see some of her concerns abut that system repeated here.

“There’s kind of a component that’s left out here," she said. "It might work for college kids, it might work for commuters, but it doesn’t work for everyone. And so you’re asking for moms like myself who did not want to use that, to pay for others to ride on that.”

Chris Wiseman, a member of the Front Range Rail Commission who's also a Pueblo County Commissioner, responded to the remarks by El Paso County commissioners.

"We have a library district that people pay taxes for, even though not everyone uses the library," he said. "That's because it's needed and it's for the greater good of the community. I'm hoping that we can convince El Paso County of the need for the rail project. It'll be harder to do without their support, but it's still a good plan. And even if the legislature passes the bill, we still have a long way to go before the project becomes a reality."

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

Comments

19 Comments

  1. “We have a library district that people pay taxes for, even though not everyone uses the library,” he said.
    Umm two totally different things moron. Libraries are shown to be a huge benefit to the community. A money pit rail system does not add value to the community.
    The feasibility study said that it would NEVER be self sustaining or profitable. It would forever need tax payer money and in the future that amount could go up so additional taxes would have to be put in place in the future. Huge money pit. They even said in the first 10 years they anticipate only 20-30% of its capacity is utilized. So the train cars would be 70-80% empty for the first 10 years. Then they HOPE it will increase. It won’t

  2. Let the people who ride the train pay for the train, i.e., use the same logic as the Lexus Lanes they forced on us for the I-25 expansion.

    1. absolutely agree with your post.
      If people want a high-speed ride up the range- let them pay a sum that actually pays for their ride. Why make me pay for it? I hardly leave my house.
      The problem with my statement is that people are very unlikely to pay that kind of money for a ticket. Yet-even with just a few passengers- the train will still have to make the whole trip.IF Amtrack thinks this is such a great lucrative deal- let them foot the WHOLE bill and collect all the money for it. But you bet your ass they would not even consider that.

      1. You can bet that if this rail idea was profitable, the railroads would already be running passenger service.

        1. Actually, Amtrak has wanted to and proposed running a passenger service on the front range before several times actually, but the thing is Amtrak doesn’t really own much of its own track except the northeastern corridor out east, they have to leave the trackage from freight railroads. The front range is the link between the powder River division and the Texas division and most all of the cold traffic from Wyoming comes through there as well as a few mixed freight trains and the occasional z train that carries UPS and FedEx freight whenever a passenger train runs it has to be priority because the schedule and the freight railroads aren’t willing to park freight in order to move several Amtrak trains a day. Realistically it’s not even possible for them to coexist on the front range, you have three main lines down to Littleton but after that it’s two main lines to Palmer lake single main line to Colorado Springs down to fountain two main lines to Pueblo and then single main line again, typically the freight railroads run empty trains going north loaded trains going south there’s not really anywhere to park them to let passenger service go through. I’m not sure how far it’s gone or if it’s gone at all but the original plan from several years back was to build a line going from fort Morgan roughly down to la junta and completely bypass the front range but they haven’t figured out the logistics of all of the freight that needs to get to the front range I don’t think there’s been any groundbreaking at all.

        2. That whole message was talk to text so if there is anything that doesn’t make sense LOL just put the pieces together in your mind

    2. I 100% agree. If you use the roads you should pay for the roads. All roads should be tolls. My tax $ should not be used to pay for roads I don’t use. And don’t claim the roads are paid for by gasoline tax. That hasn’t been raised since the 70’s and doesn’t even come even close to paying for the roads people use.

  3. The “the first and last mile of the project” problem that Mr. VanderWerf refers to is solved by getting off your butt and walking. Barring that, Uber and Lyft are available.

    1. Who has 20 or 30 bucks twice a day to burn on Uber? Who wants to wait 30 minutes a day for them? All the pieces are not in place. You need small electric rental cars at the depots to make this work. And they need to be instant rentals. And the stops would need to be frequent, which they wouldn’t be on a long trip like that. even more wait time… Taking a 2 hour round trip commute each day and making it 3 and a half hours to go to a place you already don’t want to go to 5 times a week is not desirable.

      1. 30min? You must live in BFE. Even in Rockrimmon an Uber or Lyft comes in less than 5 minutes.

  4. I grew up on Eastern Long Island, often using the Long Island Railroad system to travel to school in NYC. Many, many people used this form of transportation because it was reliable, not subject to traffic jams, and eliminated the need to find and pay for parking in the city. I support a Front Range Rail line for those reasons, and for the fact that it will reduce wear and tear on our highways (requiring frequent maintenance and widening, with it’s concurrent inconveniences) and reduce air pollution.

    1. Denver has a nice light rail system. But we are not talking about rail systems within big cities, we are talking about long distance rail systems. we are talking about people who have already spent a great deal of time riding and waiting for these limited excursions and now are going to have to wait for light rail and probably a bus too. Most don’t have that kind of time.

      1. The light rail system the vast majority of the time won’t get you to within a few blocks of your destination. Not even close.

      2. You’re obviously not familiar with the Long Island RailRoad, which is a system very similar in nature to this proposal, extending to communities over 120 miles from New York City. Those communities eventually took the LIRR stations into consideration with their own planning, and it has been a huge success for a very long time, particularly with commuters. This has helped in the ongoing success of outlying towns, many of which would otherwise not even exist.

    2. We are far from the east coast density and it is a totally different way of living. I speak from experience in Boston. It was great.
      Here the study found that they hope if it is built that it will attract more riders than the survey came back with. There is not a lot of people who commute from Pueblo to Denver or Fort Collins daily. And then Wyoming even less. It would basically be a spur off of the main Amtrack line that goes through Denver. The rail line would rely upon tax payer funding for almost 70% of its operating costs in the first 10 years on this section. I am a ntive and they always do this every 5-10 years. Champion a rail connection and all the studies come back dismal and surveys come back with little interest in utilizing it on a regular basis.
      This is not New York. It is quicker to drive your own car here and we love our big plush SUV’s! lol

  5. With all of the commuting that is going on from Pueblo to Denver, I doubt highly that is would NOT be heavily used as nstilwagen mentioned.
    Here is the sole reason that the El Paso County government does not want it to happen; It is because they will lose out on the road tax revenue. Plain and simple.
    It IS what is best for the people, as well as for the environment, but it would further financially impact the roads in El Paso County and they would lose funds. EL Paso County wants the roads congested because it draws more revenue, and a efficient mode of transportation that would be able to move up and down the front range without delays would cause conflict to that revenue stream.

  6. Let’s not forget how the state screwed El Paso County taxpayers with the GAP Project.

  7. We can have our own version of ShAmtrack, the unprofitable government subsidized disaster.

  8. Of course they voted NO they are and have been on a mission to keep Colorado Springs/ El paso county as Lame and Backwater as possible for years. Nothing but the Olympic buildings have grown here for 25+ years.

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