Backers raising money rail study |

Backers raising money rail study

DENVER Colorado voters could be asked as early as 2008 to approve funding for a proposed high-speed commuter rail system to connect Front Range communities from Wyoming to New Mexico, officials said.In the meantime, the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority is seeking federal and local funds for a feasibility study of the proposal to develop a commuter-rail system that could reach as far north as Casper, Wyo., and as far south as Albuquerque, N.M., said group director Bob Briggs, a former state lawmaker and member of the Regional Transportation District board.”It’s critical to put this together now,” before population growth overtakes the region’s highway capacity, he said.Briggs said the proposal could cost up to $9 billion and could be funded in part through a statewide sales tax increase.”We don’t have enough answers yet to start putting a cost to it,” Briggs said.The proposal has come up against skepticism in at least one Front Range town, the Douglas County seat of Castle Rock about 20 miles south of Denver.The town, which provided $10,000 toward the commuter-rail proposal last year, will decide within a month whether to continue contributing. Town officials said they were concerned about giving up control over transit options within Castle Rock.”It’s not that we want to be isolated,” said Joe Procopio, chairman of the town’s Public Works Commission. “Regional transportation is critical, but it has to make economic sense.”The Douglas County Commission has turned down a request for $50,000 to help fund the study.Castle Rock residents have a history of bucking regional transit efforts, although about two-thirds of the town’s work force commutes to other cities. In 2005, Castle Rock voters overwhelmingly decided to stop contributing about $5 million annually in sales-tax revenues to the Regional Transportation District. Instead, the town will pay about $164,000 this year to help fund the Front Range Express, a commuter bus service between Denver and Fountain.”The town recognizes the need for effective mass transit both within Castle Rock and to the Denver metro area but would like to have more control over how that service is delivered,” Councilwoman Katie Kruger said.The state has allocated $1.2 million for the study, but backers still must raise more than $300,000 from potential stops along the route.

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