Apr 14, 2021 - News
Colorado charges forward on new rail line through Denver
The proposed map for an expanded rail service by Amtrak.
The proposed map for an expanded rail service by Amtrak. Photo: Amtrak.

The sepia-toned images of a rail expansion to the West, along with its promise of commerce and population growth, is suddenly a modern vision in Colorado.

Driving the news: First, Amtrak released a proposed map that shows a new regional rail line along the Front Range, running 300 miles from Cheyenne south through Denver to Pueblo. Then state lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill to provide funding and guide planning.

  • U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper expressed his support, and so has Gov. Jared Polis, both Democrats.
  • "We feel like it's realistic and the timing is essential right now," Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) told John.

The renewed attention on an old idea comes on the heels of President Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes $80 million to expand Amtrak's network.

  • The state-level legislation would create a Front Range Passenger Rail District that could seek approval for a special sales tax up to 0.8 percentage points to generate money for the new rail line.

"We really think that this corridor is ready — it’s long past ready," Amtrak President Stephen Gardner told state officials Monday, the Denver Post reported.

Reality check: Biden's infrastructure plan is not a done deal and neither is a state-level tax hike, given the failure of recent ones on the Colorado ballot.

  • The project is also expected to take a decade or longer to finish.
  • "This isn’t something that happens overnight," said Sal Pace, a former state lawmaker and Pueblo County commissioner who is working on the initiative, according to The Colorado Sun.

The intrigue: The price tag is estimated as high as $14 billion, but state officials suggest a patchwork of current tracks could make it possible faster and with costs closer to $2 billion, the Post reported.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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