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2022 Denver Winter Olympics could spur high-speed rail

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The second part of a three-part series in the Colorado Independent by David O. Williams about the prospects of Denver landing the 2022 Winter Games ran over the weekend, focusing on how such a move would brighten the prospects of high-speed rail along I-70.

As Vancouver shut down the highway to Whistler to accommodate buses instead of personal vehicles for this year's shindig, Williams writes that such a strategy would fail in Colorado:

Closing I-70 between Denver and Colorado's ski resorts isn't feasible. It's a major interstate trucking corridor and the only real way to get between the metropolitan areas of the Front Range to the more than 20 Western Slope ski areas.

"You're probably going to have events at five or six different ski resorts," [Rocky Mountain Rail Authority President Harry] Dale said. "Say you're going to do that tomorrow with I-70 just the way it is - you're screwed. There's no way you're going to do this."

But rail proponent Dale says the 2022 games could bring in $20 billion for infrastructure -- about the price tag of twin high-speed rail lines on I-25 and I-70.

"The fear in '76 was, 'Well, we're not going to get any money for infrastructure and it's going to place this huge demand on us, so why would we want [the Olympics]?'" Dale said. "And I would say 2022 is the same way. If you're not going to get $20 billion for infrastructure, don't do it. You've got to walk away with something."

However, as Colorado voters rebuffed the IOC after it awarded Denver the 1976 games, Dale's argument might be strictly academic, as this passage from another Williams story published in the Independent last November suggests:

"My guess is Denver shot themselves in the foot in 1976," two-time Olympic ski-racing medalist Phil Mahre told The Colorado Independent. "To win the bid and then bail probably has left a bad taste in the IOC's mouth. Does Denver really want to go down that alley again?"

Image: Donutboy65's Flickr Photostream.

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