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Could the NW Corridor Rail problem be answered by another rail proposal?

Many hoping RTD's Northwest Line could finally be constructed
Many hoping RTD's Northwest Line could finally be constructed 02:47

The Regional Transportation District hosted an open house in Westminster on Thursday to start to collect public input as part of the latest proposal for a commuter rail line it calls a "Peak Service" option. It would provide some commuter rail service long owed to taxpayers who backed the 2004 Fastracks plan that called for rail in the Northwest corridor. 


"At this point, we've got nothing. Something would be move than nothing," said Westminster resident Gary Shea.

The Peak Service option would mean three trains per day during the morning commute and three in the evening. Far less than that dozens of trips per day originally sold as part of the Fastracks plan. But that plan was weighed down by the realities of the economy in the late 2000s plus the difficulty in leasing rail line from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, which owns the line and right of way leading out to Longmont. 

"I think Boulder County has put in north of $70 million already and we've seen nothing. We can't continue to do that. We just can't," said Longmont mayor Joan Peck. 

As RTD studies the plan, an even bigger rail plan is starting to pick up steam in Colorado, the Front Range Passenger Rail project. It would create rail service from Fort Collins to Pueblo and potentially into Wyoming as well. The route Is currently planned along the I-25 corridor, but if the line were to run into Denver's Union Station, the most likely path would be along the Northwest rail line RTD is working on. 


"I think there are some exciting opportunities there that we need to explore," said RTD's study team manager Patrick Stanley.

In the RTD's Peak Service proposal, there would be the leasing of the BNSF rail line, but with so few trains no need to construct additional lines. There would likely have to be rail sidings added however for freight trains to move aside for passenger trains. Under the bigger proposals earlier in the NW rail route, there would have been need for the construction of two additional rail lines, which raised the cost of a lease deal with BNSF to over $500 million. 

Amtrak, which is part of the Front Range rail group, already has a deal with BNSF for use of its lines, potentially reducing costs, if it were folded together. 

"It's going to behoove both parties to take a look at that and see what opportunities exist between us. So for that reason, I think I'm cautiously optimistic and excited it may be something that can come about from this potential partnership," said Stewart. 

Exactly how it might work would be a long way out, but financial reality is likely to be part of it RTD teaming up with Front Range rail to make the NW rail route work said Peck. 

"RTD's going to have to partner with them to get some of the cost to build this."

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