3 Maps: The $21 Billion Colorado High-Speed Rail Network Proposed in 2010

Colorado’s economy could support and benefit from a $21 billion high-speed rail system, according to a 2010 report by the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority. At a time when a new president had raised hopes that bullet trains could finally come to America, the 18-month study offered a first look at the idea in Colorado.

The maps presented here come from that report. They offer early sketches, not detailed plans.

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The Federal Railroad Administration created the map above, which outlines a complete high-speed rail network in the state.

The report projected a trip from Denver International Airport to Keystone would cost $35 and get you there in 1 hour 15 minutes. A trip from Downtown Denver to Ft. Collins would cost $30 and arrive in 1 hour at average speeds between 90 and 100 mph or more, which would offer riders a significant advantage over driving.

The system would carry 35 million passengers and generate more than $750 million in revenue by 2035 according to an FRA estimate.

This week, the state announced that it will again study passenger rail, but only along the I-25 corridor. The new study will build upon the initial work from the 2010 report, which suggested running trains every 15 to 30 minutes during the day along I-25. But the new recommendations are likely to be more modest than the 2010 plan.

Denver to Cheyenne

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The alignments in the 2010 report suggest using:

  • Greenfield/unconstrained routes, which involve acquiring land. This option can be built straighter and flatter routes, which allow high-speed trains to move faster.

  • Existing freight rail tracks, which can be problematic for high-speed rail because the curves and inclines are too sharp to move at high speeds. Passenger trains can also get stuck behind freight traffic.

  • Shared routes, which would place tracks on state-owned land next to I-25. Such alignments can be steeper than ideal for high-speed rail technologies available at the time.

Denver to Pueblo

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 The 2010 study recommended the greenfield/unconstrained routes along 1-25, which could support very high-speed electric trains, with maximum speeds of 220 mph. Less favorable route options would require slower train technologies.

Kate Williams