The Future of Denver
The Mile High City is consistently hailed as one of the best places to live in the United States—and who are we to argue? But with an additional 1.5 million people expected to move to the Front Range by 2035, our treasured lifestyle may be at risk. We dug through reams of city-planning documents, talked to dozens of Coloradans, and put together a vision for the future of our city. Now, it's time to make this vision a reality.
Working on the Railroad
The high-speed mountain train has always seemed like a long shot, but we need it now more than ever.
Weekend traffic on I-70 is absolutely brutal. To avoid hours of sitting on the road, skiers need to leave Denver by 6 a.m. and start for home by 1 p.m., which spoils the reason they headed for the hills in the first place. "It's no fun to have the mountains if there's no way up there," says Colorado state Senator Chris Romer, who set off a firestorm last year when he suggested the possibility of congestion-based pricing or economic incentives for travelers on I-70. "We're already taxed on the roads; we're taxed on our time."
While Romer was advocating a short-term solution to a long-term problem—every hour-long closure of I-70 costs the state $800,000, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation—the idea of a high-speed railroad is gaining momentum. The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority (RMRA), a consortium of 52 local governments, recently completed a $1.25 million feasibility study on the possibility of high-speed rail lines on the I-70 and I-25 corridors, from Cheyenne to Trinidad and DIA to Grand Junction.
That expansive area is proving to be too costly, because west of Eagle County, north of Fort Collins, and south of Pueblo, there just aren't enough people to ride the train. "The high-speed rail needs to be cost-effective and pay for itself," says Harry Dale, the chairman of the RMRA. "It has to make an operating profit, and it has to go fast in order to charge competitive fares."
Cost estimates range from $3 billion to $36 billion, depending on the length of the constructed lines and whether the trains are electric or magnetic levitation. Much of that funding would likely come from the federal government; Dale estimates the state and private groups would only need to pay for 20 to 40 percent of the total price tag.
Another concern is freight railroads, which were obstinate when RTD was trying to negotiate space for FasTracks. If the freight lines blocked the rail authority from building a pedestrian line up the Santa Fe corridor, for example, the north-south rail line might have to swing out east, along E-470.
Even with the "yeah-buts," Dale remains optimistic. "We need more high-speed rail to compete with the car and the plane," he says. A ticket from Denver to Vail, he estimates, could cost as little as $30—well worth paying if you could actually ski the whole day on your $97 lift ticket.