By RYAN SHERIDAN
Daily Press writer
Traffic is one of the modern concerns that has found its way to Colorado along with the economic and population boom the state has seen over the last several years. As the state roadways become more and more crowded, planners and designers are beginning to look at other ways that could provide mass transit. Along Interstate 25, the battle has raged for several years on whether or not to build a light rail that ran along the I-25 corridor.
This year, one of the questions facing voters statewide will be whether $50 million of Colorado's tax surplus should be spent on research and testing of a monorail transportation system that would run along Interstate 70 from Denver to Vail.
One of the opponents of this plan, The Colorado Rail Passenger Association (ColoRail), labels the plan a "horrendous waste of money.
"The state of Colorado has already made a major investment in a study of [the I-70 Corridor]," Jon Esty, ColoRail president, said. "CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) is working on a programmatic environmental impact study that will come up with a conclusion about what is needed highway improvement or fixed guideway, anything form commuter trains to monorail or lightrail-type fixed bus."
This study will provide for monorail solutions, among others, and doesn't sink money into a project that can only eventually call for more money, since the $50 million will go towards research, which will lead to more research and testing, Esty said.
"The technology doesn't exist," he said. "This plan marries technologies that exist, but we're looking at a long, long period of development. There are monorails that exist and are in use today, in Switzerland particularly, that could be used here. We disagree with trying to build new technology when it's already out there."
Miller Hudson, executive director of the Colorado Alliance for a Rapid Transit System (CARTS), calls the ColoRail arguments disingenuous and misleading. The programmatic environmental impact study can only recommend transit technologies that are proven, and what is available today won't be able to fill Colorado's needs, he said.
"Only systems that have been proven, tested, and are in use can be recommended by the plan CDOT is working on," Hudson said. "If we don't test types of monorail, the CDOT plan can't include them.
"Those that argue against the this funding just want to do away with the monorail There is no existing system that can work on the I-70 corridor, and if they keep new technology research off the books, they'll kill the monorail option. It's a Catch-22: Without this research and testing, the CDOT plan can't recommend a monorail system. There won't be any system that will be proven and in use for them to recommend without this research."
This funding effort is important to the Western Slope because the I-70 corridor is an important economic lifeline to the area, Hudson said.
"The corridor is a major part of the infrastructure of western Colorado," he said. "And with what appears to be vanishing air service to the rural areas, this kind of research is needed. There are those that are predicting that there will be no rural air service in two years. For the economies of the Western Slope, you need some kind of high-speed link, and the monorail needs to be looked at as that link."