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High speed commuter rail plan unveiled

(The following article was posted on the Cherry Creek News website on August 25.)

CHERRY CREEK, Colo. -- Cheyenne-Denver-Albuquerque

Imagine a high speed, "Bullet Train"-like commuter railroad whisking passengers from Cheyenne along Colorado's Front Range to Albuquerque and from Denver to Vail. That's the goal of "Ranger Express."

Initially, high speed commuter rail service would run along the Front Range, from Fort Collins through Denver's Union Station to Pueblo. High speed trains between Denver to Vail and connections to Cheyenne and Albuquerque would come later.

"’Ranger Express,’ could speed intercity and interstate travel, reduce highway traffic along I-25, I-70 and connecting roadways, and Reduce the need to build new highways," said Bob Briggs, head of the Front Range Commuter Rail, a nonprofit organization set up to get the project off the ground.

Briggs says the first hurdle is to get the federal government to designate the route as a high speed commuter rail corridor. Colorado Senator Ken Salazar is leading that effort.
"I believe we have the opportunity to create a high speed commuter rail system to link our major population centers and set the stage for the next century," said Senator Salazar when he announced support for the plan.

"It is time to study this project’s feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and most importantly its impact on local communities. No matter the outcome of the study we need to find solutions now to our future transportation problems," Salazar said.

Front Range Commuter Rail says it’s working with other members of the Colorado Congressional Delegation to push the plan through the federal government.

When the high speed corridor is approved, it would free federal funds and allow detailed feasibility and funding studies.

The "Ranger Express" visualizes air conditioned, double-deck rail cars with wrap-around windows. The trains might have passenger seats on the lower deck and "business class" service on the upper deck to allow businesspeople to work as they travel.

A key part of the plan would divert freight traffic that now goes through Denver to a new route east of the metro area to allow passenger service to Union Station and alleviate congestion caused by freight trains.

Front Range Commuter Rail would connect with RTD service in the Denver metro area.

Front Range Commuter Rail is working closely with RTD and the Colorado Department of Transportation on planning.

Briggs says the first service could begin as early as 2014.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

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