KEYSTONE - Local and Colorado Department of Transportation officials know they want the future transit system between the Front Range and the mountains to pass through and stop in Summit County.
The trouble now is determining where.
The question of realistic station locations in Summit County was the primary topic of debate at a meeting of stakeholders Monday afternoon at Warren Station in Keystone.
"There's not a blank piece of land that's big enough to accommodate all of this," Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson said of the hypothetical rail station and associated facilities.
Train stations for a system with the kind of carrying capacity CDOT is considering are deceptively huge.
The platform itself could extend up to 1,000 feet, a distance that dwarfs the length of the football field alongside Interstate 70 in Idaho Springs. Consultants on the project say each stop will require additional space - up to 15 acres - for parking, baggage and ticketing services, while local officials anticipate the need for additional property to accommodate commercial, lodging and other entities connected with the station.
CDOT's consultants say Summit County could have two or more stations depending on the alignment of the system.
The proposed transit or rail system is still in the very long-range planning stages. A feasibility study currently under way will determine whether the rail is practical both technically and financially in the next year, but the system itself isn't on track to be constructed before 2020.
Still, the consultants indicated the importance of developing a vision for the train to determining its feasibility and asked local officials at the meeting to begin considering possible stop locations.
"If we're going to build this thing, we've got to get started doing these things now," said Mike Riggs, an advanced guideway system (AGS) project manager for Aztec Engineering, the consultant firm on the project. "Because otherwise, we're going to have a train that doesn't have stations."
Officials are looking at a variety of routes for the system, including one that would follow I-70 through the mountain corridor, another that could have a completely different alignment from the highway and a hybrid of the two. Each option comes with different technology and different possible stops for Summit County.
A rail that follows I-70 could stop in Silverthorne or Frisco and Copper Mountain. A different alignment might be designed to provide direct access to the resorts with stops in Breckenridge and other ski areas.
CDOT's initial vision for the transit system involves a rail, or other technology, that will run from Jefferson County to the Eagle County Airport in under 60 minutes, making six stops along the way and carrying approximately 4,900 passengers per hour - the equivalent capacity of a highway lane.
A high-speed rail or other transit system is part of a package of solutions proposed in a recent study intended to address growing traffic problems on the I-70 mountain corridor.