02 September 2009

Colorado Passenger Rail Line Cost Estimated

How much would passenger rail lines cost?

From Denver International Airport in Colorado to Vail along I-70:(intermediate stops in Keystone and Frisco, and presumably Denver): $15 billion

From Fort Collins to Pueblo along I-25 (including intermediate stops in Denver and Colorado Springs): $5 billion

From here. The total would be about $21 billion (presumably a function of rounding errors).

One option under consideration would be to use electric trains capable of average speeds of 60 mph in the I-70 corridor and up to 140 mph in key portions of the I-25 corridor[.]

The $1.5 million study was done by a local government backed and state chartered authority.

In the mountains a key issue is the extent, if any, to which passenger rail could reduce the need for expensive highway expansion or increase state tax revenues associated with tourism. The only real comparison, and it is a poor one, is to the Ski Train (which was recently permanently cancelled and may or may not be uncancelled).


Michael Malak said...

Frustratingly, this draft is not available at rockymountainrail.org so we don't know how many trips they're projecting.

There are $15 billion amortized over 30 years and divided by 400,000 round trips per year comes to a $1,250 subsidy for the capital costs. That doesn't include the operating costs that would presumably be funded with ticket purchases.

Widening I-70 would not cost less than $5 billion.

Air travel may be the most economical.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

I think that the Post got a pre-release copy of the not yet final report.

DIA cost about $5 billion to build (in 1996 dollars). Many resort towns from here to Vail, however, don't have airports.

Is an estimate of 400,000 round trips a year reasonable? Maybe so.

The Ski Train to Winter Park had a capacity of 750 passengers per trip and ran about 33 trips each winter (total traffic capacity of about 25,000).

But, Winter Park does not have as much of the market share of ski resorts on the Denver to Vail path (it has about 1 million visitors annually).

Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and Beaver Creek combined (accord to the 2008 Vail Resorts Mgt. Co.'s annual report) have about 5 million visits annually, and Colorado's combined total is about 15 million visits. Five times the Ski Train volume would be 125,000 trips per year, but a DIA connection and the fact that the trip is considerably short and would be on faster trains would increase traffic. Also, service would probably be much more frequent.

Still, even a $500 a year capital cost subsidy that would come with 1 million trips per year is pretty high for a service that almost entirely benefits high income skiiers. Chris Romer's idea of a congestion fee in peak demand times which would be used to pay for free bus service certainly sounds competitive.

Silverthorne estimates in an appendix to a March 2009 report that 12 million I-70 users go through its community each year. Lots of studies are found a the I-70 Coalition website.

The ski industry reputedly adds about $2.5 billion to the state's economy. Over 30 years, that's $75 billion. A $15 billion rail subsidy is a huge boon for that one industry, about 20% of its contribution to the state economy.

Ken said...

I question the need for the train to begin at DIA. With the East Corridor train from DIA to DUS planned under FasTracks, why duplicate that line as part of a mountain corridor system?

It makes more sense to me for skiiers to have to travel to Downtown Denver first (and hopefully spend a day or so and some cash there) before heading up to the mountains. I realize that would only put a small dent in the $15B price tag, but every bit helps.