DOWN THE LINE
Communities across western and central Colorado are bracing for a deluge of crude oil trains that could result from the construction of a new short-line railroad in eastern Utah. Over the objections of state and local leaders and environmental advocates, President Joe Biden’s administration is on track to approve the 88-mile Uinta Basin Railway, a multibillion-dollar project backed by a coalition of Utah county governments.
In a “downline analysis,” federal regulators estimated that the vast majority of the new railroad’s traffic — as many as five fully loaded, two-mile-long oil trains per day — would be routed through the Western Slope, across the Continental Divide and down the eastern face of the Front Range into Denver.
Down the Line is a multipart Newsline investigation into the risks posed by the railway to some of Colorado’s most scenic, fragile and densely populated places. Click here for an overview of the project, including maps of the route that the Uinta Basin oil trains would take through Colorado.
Federal court vacates approval of Utah oil-train project opposed by Colorado local governments
A federal court on Friday sent regulators back to the drawing board on their approval of a new short-line railroad in the oil fields of eastern Utah, finding major flaws in how the federal Surface Transportation Board analyzed the risks of increased oil-train traffic through western and central Colorado. The ruling from the U.S. Court […]
No oil-train risk analysis performed, Union Pacific safety chief tells Colorado lawmakers
The Union Pacific railroad’s top safety officer told Colorado lawmakers on Monday that the company hasn’t “specifically” analyzed the risks of increased traffic from a proposed Utah oil-train project. Rod Doerr, Union Pacific’s chief safety officer, spoke at a hearing of the General Assembly’s Transportation Legislation Review Committee, where he and other railroad executives faced […]
Uinta Basin oil trains are a disaster waiting to happen
So much harm would result from the Uinta Basin Railway, but there’s still a chance to block its construction, and it’s not a stretch to say that lives could depend on doing so. The proposed short railway in northeastern Utah — connecting the state’s largest oil field to the national rail network — would allow […]
By the numbers: How much Utah oil trains would increase hazmat rail traffic in Colorado
This much is clear: The Uinta Basin Railway, an 88-mile railroad extension proposed by a public-private partnership in eastern Utah, would dramatically increase the amount of hazardous materials being shipped through Colorado. Exactly how dramatic that increase would be, however, is a difficult question to answer. Virtually all major freight rail routes in Colorado — […]
The City: In Denver, oil trains hit a fork in the road to Colorado’s transportation future
COAL CREEK, Colo. — As trains heading east from the Moffat Tunnel take one last sharp turn along a ridge near Eldorado Canyon State Park in Boulder County, the scenery changes abruptly. After traveling hundreds of miles east through narrow river gorges and rugged alpine forests, the Union Pacific’s Central Corridor through Colorado emerges at […]
Headwaters: At the Colorado River’s source, oil trains would pose risks to both sides of the Divide
At 88 miles long, with a projected capacity of up to 350,000 barrels per day, eastern Utah’s Uinta Basin Railway would rank among the most ambitious efforts to haul crude oil by rail ever undertaken in the United States. But it’s not the largest ever considered. That label belongs to a proposed 580-mile, dual-track railroad […]
The Canyons: Oil and water could mix in Colorado River country known for its beauty, fragility
BURNS, Colo. — Beneath the limestone cliffs, the trunk of a lone, dead lodgepole pine stuck straight up from the brush along the riverbank, looming over a remote stretch of the Colorado River in northern Eagle County. Inside the train cars passing by on the opposite side of the river, a voice came over the […]
Boomtowns: Once connected by railroads, Colorado River Valley towns now feel threatened by them
DE BEQUE, Colo. — As they head east out of the bottomlands of the Grand Valley, trains on the Union Pacific’s Central Corridor continue to follow the Colorado River in reverse, climbing gradually into Garfield County, where the rocky cliffs and sagebrush-spotted scrubland of the high desert begin to give way to the gentler slopes […]
The Valley: In Grand Junction, oil train route would retrace Colorado railroad history
GRAND VALLEY, Colo. — Five miles due south of the point where Interstate 70 crosses the Colorado-Utah border, a maze of slickrock washes and desert bunchgrass descends into a broad canyon carved out of the sandstone by the Colorado River. Here, on the high northern banks of a river that supplies water to 40 million […]
Down the Line: Tracing the route — and risks — of Utah’s proposed Colorado-bound oil trains
A proposal to build a new short-line railroad in the oil fields of eastern Utah could soon result in a dramatic increase in the amount of hazardous materials being shipped by rail through communities across western and central Colorado. The 88-mile Uinta Basin Railway, backed by a partnership between industry and Utah county governments, would […]