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Angry Colo. residents hear UPís plan

(The following story by Jeffrey Leib appeared on the Denver Post website on April 26.)

FORT LUPTON, Colo. ó Union Pacific Railroad officials briefed Fort Lupton City Council members Wednesday night about the possible construction of a 640-acre rail complex here.

But city leaders would not let residents question rail representatives about the project.

The decision by Mayor Shannon Crespin angered some of the 200 residents in the audience.

"It's not freedom of speech; it's not American. I wanted my questions answered," said Georgia Barry, after she and other audience members spilled out of the auditorium following Crespin's decision.

The gathering was not scheduled as a public hearing and citizens will have time at future hearings to get questions answered, Crespin told the crowd.

Earlier, Fort Lupton police had distributed a flier stating that "the audience will not be allowed to question the Union Pacific representative."

Before the mayor ruled, UP real estate manager Tony Love told the council and residents that the railroad is studying relocation of two major freight facilities from central Denver to Fort Lupton because the Regional Transportation District needs the Denver sites for its FasTracks rail expansion.

"We are here because of RTD's projects," Love said, adding that UP is being asked "to move out of the way" in Denver principally to accommodate construction of the east corridor rail line to Denver International Airport.

The railroad has several studies underway to look at environmental and financial impacts related to relocating the freight-rail operations to Fort Lupton, Love said. An analysis of the economic impact the rail facilities could have on the surrounding community should be ready in June. A broader study of the cost of the project and the impact it could have on traffic, air quality and other issues is expected by November.

UP looked at other sites for the freight handling and switching yard, but the Fort Lupton location works best for UP's freight customers and the railroad's operations, Love said.

Debbie and Gordon Moore were among the residents who had questions.

"We live just a little south (of the proposed project) and we're not terribly excited about the truck traffic," Debbie Moore said. "I'm concerned about crime and vagrants. I'm concerned about property values."

Frank Meadows, another area resident who opposes the rail project, said he believes it is "a done deal."

"People moved out here to get away from this," he said.

Love said there has been no final decision on whether to go forward with the project.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

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