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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