ATM: Door cracking open for I-70 mass transit? |

ATM: Door cracking open for I-70 mass transit?

ALLEN BESTspecial to the daily

I-70 CORRIDOR – Could the door be cracking open for the monorails talked about for the last decade on Interstate 70? Don’t hold your breath, but something slightly more tangible is now afoot than in the past.Metropolitan Denver’s Regional Transportation District has agreed to review competing proposals from three companies to build trains between Denver International Airport and the city’s downtown. All three propose to use mag-lev technology, which use electrically charged magnets to power rail-based vehicles.In an editorial, The Denver Post cautiously suggests that such mag-lev technology, if it works in Denver, might be the answer for the I-70 corridor. The newspaper notes that a mag-lev train in Shanghai, China, covers the 19 miles to the city’s airport in 7 minutes. The project cost $1.7 billion.While Colorado pleads empty trouser pockets for big-ticket transportation items, the Post speculates that the three companies might help finance the line with long-term design-build-operate-maintain contract. This, says the newspaper, would give them a foothold in what could eventually be a huge U.S. market – and might even get assistance from the federal government.And if mag-lev trains work in metropolitan Denver, says the Post, there will be obvious interest for the I-70 corridor, “whose steep grades resist traditional steel-wheels on steel-rails service.”Proponents of a rail-based technology employed in Switzerland by a company called Stadler beg to differ with the Post’s rejection of steel wheels on steel rails.Jackson Hole aims to cut energy use by 10 percent JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Teton County and the town of Jackson are embarking on a most ambitious effort. When 2010 ends, they aim to use 10 percent less energy on a per capita basis than last year, and also generate 10 percent less garbage. The project is called 10 x 10.This is, notes Jonathan Schechter, a columnist in the Jackson Hole News&Guide, more than checkbook environmentalism. “It requires residents to do things differently,” he says. It’s a voluntary effort, with no economic incentives, although consuming less energy and generating less trash do in fact save money. This effort builds on a resolution adopted by both town and county governments, which commits both governments to reduce their energy and fuel use by 10 percent. The two governments recently formed an Energy Efficiency Advisory Board, which includes two ski resorts, two large lodges, and the electrical utility serving Jackson Hole.As in Aspen, one of the arguments for such an effort is that because of its influence on visitors, the effort can be exaggerated, causing passers-through to similarly cut back on energy use.Beetles killed two-thirds of trees in Grand CountyGRANBY – Foresters are now saying that the bark beetle epidemic in Middle Park is unprecedented. By summer’s end, the beetles are expected to have killed three-fourths of the 800,000 forested acres in Grand County.Among the hardest hit areas is Grand Lake, at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Hope that the Winter Park-Fraser area might escape the worst of the epidemic has dissipated.Patrick Brower, editor of the Sky-Hi News, says the severity of the epidemic is illustrated in two ways. It is now obvious that thinning forests is not sufficient to make the remaining trees healthy enough to withstand beetles. Even healthy, prime-of-life trees are getting attacked.Also, the early-on advice was that trees sprayed with poison would be protected. While that is still accurate, the slightest mistake in mixing of chemicals, timing of application, or missed coverage could mean the beetles will still kill the tree.The battle is over, says Brower, and it’s only a matter of time before the bark beetles have killed all the lodgepole pine trees, which is the dominant species in Middle Park. The greater worry now is the threat of catastrophic forest fires, a situation that U.S. Senator Ken Salazar in December described as a potential “Katrina of the West.”A bill advancing rapidly through the Colorado Legislature would provide up to 60 percent of the cost of local projects to remove trees and plant new ones. The state is allocating $1 million. A second measure, which has already become law, lets communities set up forest improvement districts that could levy sales taxes with voter approval.In Grand County, county regulations are being drawn up to more tightly control fires. Exempted will be fires in 55-gallon barrels. Mike Long, fire chief of a fire district at Grand Lake, asked that the county commissioners be quick about it.Solar panels to help provide school juiceGLENWOOD SPRINGS – Solar collectors erected at an alternative high school near Glenwood Springs are expected to provide 6 to 8 percent of the school’s electricity. Yampah Mountain High School teacher Suzy Ellison won a $60,000 grant for energy education, installation of the panels, and an energy audit. She told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent that she has taught about energy, including the greenhouse gases created in burning coal to make electricity, and climate change. Students are also being taught about conservation, turning off lights and computers when not in use.

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