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CDOT was never consulted about rail abandonment

Letter by John Esty

Transportation – November 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine

C-DOT never consulted about rail abandonment

To The Editor:

Governor Roy Romer, along with his Office of Economic Development, has made a serious error in allowing the abandonment of the Tennessee Pass line to occur.

Though transportation of people and freight across the state is the responsibility of the Colorado Department of Transportation (C-DOT), C-DOT staff were never consulted as to the viability of the “rails to trails” plan. In fact, numerous phone calls by C-DOT staff asking for input were never returned and once the decision was made, C-DOT staff was asked not to comment. Had the Governor and his Office of Economic Development staff talked with C-DOT, they would have found out that:

1) A comprehensive study by C-DOT to identify possible future railway corridors for passenger service includes the track between the Leadville area to the Vail Valley. It was C-DOT’s conclusion this rail line could provide a means of safe and comfortable transport for resort employees as well as visitors to what is becoming a very congested area.

2) The I-70 Mountain Corridor Investment Study includes much of the rail line in its current review of how to transport visitors into and through the Vail Valley,

3) C-DOT chose the Tennessee Pass route as its number-one selection of a rail line to preserve in accordance with the recently passed Railroad Abandonment Act. The legislature specifically included money in this act to purchase railroads which are candidates for abandonment.

4) Union Pacific coal trains, which have been diverted off the Tennessee Pass line, have jammed the Moffat line (Glenwood Springs – Denver) causing long delays to freight and Amtrak trains. Recent news accounts tell of Union Pacific’s efforts to engage ocean-going ships or other railroads to help them move freight which has backed up in California ports.

5) An incredible amount and variety of mineral resources are located in the region served by the Tennessee Pass line that may be required in a future national emergency or simply to help the United States maintain its competitive edge in the world economy.

6) Highways, which parallel the railroad, would be severely damaged by heavy trucks moving mineral ore from mines to manufacturing plants.

It is for these reasons that the governor and his Office of Economic Development should immediately scrap their plans to pull up the tracks and, at least, consult with C-DOT before making any decision regarding the Tennessee Pass line.

Jon Esty, President Colorado Rail Passenger Association Denver