Study projects high ridership for proposed Front Range Passenger Rail

    BRIEF

    A train is pictured at Union Station in Denver. (codot.gov)

    A state board developing a plan for passenger rail service along the Front Range estimates that the proposed line could carry nearly 10,000 passengers on a typical weekday, officials said last week.

    That adds up to nearly 3 million riders per year, and this “notable demand” — based on extensive modeling using survey and census data — compares favorably to other passenger rail lines around the country, staff from the state’s Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission said at an Aug. 28 meeting.

    The “BNSF Alternative” being studied by state rail officials could carry passengers along a 14-stop route between Pueblo and Fort Collins. (Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission)

    The new ridership estimates are based on a plan that would carry passengers to and from 14 stops along a 191-mile stretch of track between Pueblo and Fort Collins. The route, controlled by railroad giant BNSF, would include stops in Boulder and Longmont, where residents have been frustrated by prolonged delays in the completion of the RTD’s Northwest Rail Line.

    A range of alternatives is also being studied by the FRPR commission, including proposals that would more closely align the route with the Interstate 25 corridor south of Denver, or with RTD’s N Line between Denver and Thornton. Other variables, like the number of stations or the frequency of service, are also subject to change.

    Depending on the details of the commission’s final service plan, it could cost up to $5 billion to make the Front Range rail line a reality, likely through a combination of federal and state funding sources. Polling released in October 2019 found that 61% of voters in 13 Front Range counties said they would be willing to approve a sales tax increase to fund the project.