Letters to the Editor

From the week of 3/22/07

"Crazy Train," Jessica Centers, March 15


Fresh Tracks

Can someone explain to me why the vast majority of us who aren't skiers should subsidize the ski industry? If moving people up to the ski areas is so important, let them finance it.
Steve Read
Denver

Sure, during the winter months, when everyone is heading to a handful of ski areas, train travel makes sense. But what about the summer months, when the Front Rangers are exploring every inch of Colorado? Do I yell "Next stop!" halfway over Vail Pass to access an obscure trailhead? Would a train haul me to a campsite with my camping gear, kayak, climbing gear, mountain bike and dogs? The train is fast to Summit County and Vail, but then what -- hire a sherpa?

What the advocates of the I-70 train plan simply don't get, or choose to ignore, is the fact that the automobile is a necessary ingredient of the outdoor lifestyle. A train will not get you to a secret backcountry fishing hole. A train will not get you to the trailhead of a fourteener. A train will not allow you to haul a dead elk home from a weekend of hunting. Nor will a train provide access for backcountry skiers, who represent the fastest-growing outdoor group in Colorado.

When you look at the train's inability to get people and their gear to remote locations, it is obvious that the train plan serves the anti-oil ideologues who promote it rather than the people actually using the highway. It's time to get real. Any rail system up the I-70 corridor would be just a "ski train" -- and if that's what the state needs, let Intrawest and Vail Resorts pick up the bulk of the tab.
Ed Graef
Denver

Kudos to Jessica Centers for the first article on the I-70 corridor expansion controversy that tells the truth and makes sense.
Henry Ledyard
Evergreen

With "Crazy Train," Jessica Centers has done a superb job in researching, interviewing and writing on a complex subject that should be of interest to everyone in Colorado. Unfortunately, most people won't act until it becomes a crisis to them personally.

Ten years ago, during the performance of the MIS, I provided the engineering that led to selection of the original CIFGA monorail for the I-70 corridor west of Denver. The chosen system, based on the proven Spanish prototype Eurotren Monoviga EM-401, was chided by the Owens administration as an elitist fantasy not of proven technology. In an attempt to satisfy the skeptics, requests for state funds were sought for a demonstration -- not a "test" -- of the technology. This factor was overlooked by the media when reporting the legislature and voter defeats of the funding requests.

More important, the proposed 180-plus mile-long system was to be built, operated and maintained by a private consortium. In other words, no taxpayer funds required! All the consortium required from the state was an easement to permit erection of the monorail support columns within the existing I-70 right-of-way to avoid land-acquisition costs. This fact was not understood by the public or explained well by the media.

Today, several committees are racking their collective brains to identify funding sources to build a transit system or widen the existing highway. Why aren't they looking for private investors who would build the monorail as proposed almost eight years ago? They still exist.
Jack B. Stauffer
Evergreen

I enjoyed "Crazy Train." Jessica Centers brought together plenty of details about the I-70 corridor that I had only been able to find piecemeal. My sole reason for living on the Front Range has been the recreational quality, and beauty, of the plains and mountains. I remember the bumper-to-bumper congestion of the old, two-lane I-70 while returning home from hiking and skiing trips back in the early '70s. During the '70s and '80s, the widened highway moved things smoothly, but that expansion was never properly completed. As soon as you approach the bottom of Floyd Hill, the traffic bottlenecks begin and do not let up until the Empire turnoff. The steepness of Floyd Hill, the bottom curve, the infusion of traffic entering from the Golden/Boulder on-ramp, the tunnel and, finally, the hill that rises south along Idaho Springs all add up to create a long stretch of "side friction" (engineering parlance for things or designs that impede normal traffic flow). Those frictions add up quickly, and any car/truck accident literally halts traffic. If CDOT eliminates those bottlenecks using proven engineering design used on Vail Pass and through Glenwood Springs, that will buy several years of reduced side friction until additional solutions are required.

The scenario of taking an express train from Union Station up through I-70 over to Vail for a relaxing excursion into the hills is lost on me. Drive down our new I-25 from Broadway south and try and see the mountains. Mountain vistas have been eliminated by tall bas-relief concrete sound barriers, with the added beauty of RTD power lines. This may be a perfect commuter canyon, but it is not tourist-friendly. What does one do at the other end of the mountain line? How does one get to the trailheads and campgrounds? How does one go up Mount Evans or over Loveland Pass? Those accesses are the real endeavor of the great majority of weekend and vacationing tourists. Rest assured, rapid transit will be a delight for land developers, and the small communities along the way will give up the charm and solitude they cherish.

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