Plans for a comprehensive passenger rail system serving the Front Range have been under study by Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), local governmental coalitions, and advocacy groups for more than a decade. There was momentum and support to look for a new mobility and travel option and provide an alternative to inter-regional travel on I-25 to connect communities along the Front Range. The project, sponsored by the Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail (SWC & FRPR) Commission (Commission) and CDOT, evaluated operation characteristics, community and environmental impacts, financial and economic factors, and feasibility of implementation and determined that there are feasible corridors for operating passenger rail between Fort Collins and Pueblo. The project, completed in late 2020, recommended advancing the study for more detailed review and to continue discussions with the legislature regarding governance and future implementation
Project manager Carla Perez and the study team set expectations about the purpose of the study to set it apart from the multiple studies that had preceded it. This couldn’t be “just another feasibility study.” The Commission needed to move the needle of both political and public opinion to generate support for the Front Range Passenger Rail (FRPR) so it could move forward. The innovative approach for the project was to generate interest, excitement, and potential while simultaneously identifying the technical and systematic barriers to project implementation.
In the 2021 legislative session, President Garcia and Representative Esgar successfully passed SB21-238 to create the Front Range Passenger Rail District. The FRPR District will be the state’s largest special district spanning the Front Range from Wyoming to New Mexico. The FRPR District is charged with planning, designing, developing, financing, constructing, operating, and maintaining a passenger rail system, specifying the territory, governing structure, powers, and duties of the district.
The work performed during the FRPR Service Development Plan Phase I project laid the foundation for the broad-based discussion and legislative success.