Bill supporting Front Range rail passes Senate

PUEBLO – The Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission bill, a bill to support Front Range rail service, was passed out of the Senate on Thursday, February 23, 2017.
 
Senators Larry Crowder and Leroy Garcia as well as Representative Daneya Esgar are all prime-sponsors of the bill. The bill was passed by a 24 to 11 vote. The bill was first introduced on January 31, 2017 and will be heard next by the House.
 
If approved by the Colorado Legislature, Senate Bill 17-153 would save the current Southwest Chief Commission from expiring and would expand the commission’s scope, membership and mission to include expanding passenger rail along Colorado’s Front Range.
 
The Southwest Chief Commission’s authorization is set to expire on July 1, 2017. Without this bill, the Southwest Chief Commission would cease to exist. The new Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission would have appointments from across the Front Range. The Commission would still be tasked with saving and preserving Amtrak’s Southwest Chief line. The Commission would, in addition, be tasked with facilitating Front Range passenger rail, including specifically drafting proposed legislation to help facilitate the mission.
 
A recent Ridership & Revenue study, conducted by Amtrak, forecasted that an extension of Southwest Chief service from La Junta to Pueblo, utilizing thru cars, could generate an increase in 14,000 riders annually and ticket revenue of nearly $1.5 million.
 
The results of Amtrak’s Ridership & Revenue Study are supported by a similar 2015 study by Colorado State University-Pueblo. The CSU-P study concluded a Chief stop in Pueblo would attract almost $3.4 million and more than 15,500 annual passengers.
 
Funding for the $150,000 Ridership & Revenue study was approved for by Pueblo County voters in the 2015 General Election as one of the 15 projects named in the Marijuana Excise Tax Infrastructure and Community Development Fund. 
 
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief currently runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles, traveling across the Mighty Mississippi, eight states and making stops near the south rim of the Grand Canyon and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
 
Thanks to the work of the Southwest Chief Commission, financial commitments from 23 communities in four states and federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants about 60 percent of the immediate repairs and improvements to the Southwest Chief’s line have been made.
 
Through TIGER grants, Southwest Chief improvement projects have now received a total of $48.66 million, have added 78 miles of new continuously welded rail, from EVRAZ North America, in Colorado and New Mexico, has helped job retention in 23 communities and is keeping the Southwest Chief running through seven states.
 
CONTACT: For more information, please contact Paris Carmichael, Pueblo County Community Information Manager at carmichp@pueblocounty.us or 719-252-8550.
 
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