Sept. 9 agenda focusing on freight rail in the state
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — A citizen advisory committee formed last winter to help guide policy at the Colorado Department of Transportation Transit and Rail Division will meet Sept. 9 in Steamboat Springs concurrently with the Colorado Association of Transit Agencies. The agenda at the meeting focuses on freight rail. More information and the full agenda is online here.
The committee’s 17 members were appointed by CDOT director Russell George to make recommendations to rail and transit division director Mark Imhoff.
Part of the group’s early mission was to identify the gaps in the state’s transit service, to look at new possibilities for transit and rails and advising on how best to use CDOT’s public transportation funding.
Creation of the state’s transit and rail division, with a $30 million budget) was heralded as a new era for CDOT last year. The funding came from a slight increase in vehicle registration fees, and marked the first time Colorado had a dedicated revenue stream for transit, be it ever so small.
The division is tasked with developing a statewide trail plan and to integrate rail with the rest of Colorado’s transportation plans. Another critical mission will be identifying stable statewide sources of transit funding.
Funding will, of course, be the key issue for any statewide transit plans. Colorado hasn’t raised its gas tax in 20 years, but there is some talk of raising the tax in two years. Part of the $0.18 federal per-gallon gas tax goes to the Highway Trust Fund, part of which is given to the FTA for transit.
Nationally, Amtrak reported 28.7 million passengers in 2010, which is the highest ridership in Amtrak’s history. Ridership has been up 6.7 percent for the past 20 consecutive months and is on pace for serving over 30 million passengers in 2011.
Members of the Transit and Rail Advisory Committee:
• Tom Allen South Central Council of Governments (Trinidad area)
• Gary Beedy Lincoln County
• Terri A. Binder Citizen
• Craig Blewitt Mountain Metropolitan Transit (Colorado Springs area)
• Richard M. Hartman Union Pacific Railroad
• Todd Hollenbeck Grand Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (Grand Junction area)
• Jonathan Hutchison Amtrak
• David Johnson Roaring Fork Transit Authority (Glenwood Springs/Aspen area)
• Douglas Lehnen Rocky Mountain Rail Authority
• Matthew O’Neill Colorado Municipal League (Windsor)
• Michael Penny I-70 Coalition
• Ann Rajewski/Elena Wilken Colorado Association of Transit Agencies
• Peter J Rickershauser OmniTrax (northern Colorado shortline railroad)
• James Souby Colorado Rail Passenger Association
• Michael E. Timlin Greyhound
• Bill VanMeter Regional Transportation District (Denver Metropolitan Area)
• Scott Weeks Denver Regional Council of Governments/Western High Speed Rail Alliance
Created by legislation in 2009, CDOT’s Rail and Transit Division oversees the statewide transit program, which will promote, plan, design, finance, operate, maintain and contract for transit services such as passenger rail, buses and advanced guideway systems.