To Train or Not to Train: The I-70 Dilemma

Grant Weaver | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Ski trains are commonplace in Europe, offering fast service and great views. Image: pasja100/pixabay

As many readers from the greater Denver area know too well, interstate 70 can be an absolute show on the weekends with traffic to and from some of the best ski resorts in the country.

With big-name resorts like Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, and Copper sitting along or near the highway, it is bound to be busy during the winter.  There have been many people who have urged for a train line to be built following the road with stops in and around these resorts and their base or neighboring towns.  This sounds fantastic right!!??  Nothing like going out for a ski weekend, skiing your butt off and not having to worry about driving home on Sunday in a storm when you are tired and aching.

It is a bummer to say, but this still sounds like a dream in a dreamer’s world.  Many experts have said that it just cannot be done for a variety of different reasons.  Colorado Departement of Transportation (CDOT) has said that transit in this area remains on the wish list.  There are a number of aspects we know no matter what will not be done.  First off, the median area between the high way lanes will not be feasible for train service, it is too steep with too many tight curves to warrant safe train travel.  Additionally, wildlife and other natural areas in the mountains that cannot be touched are spots that planners are aware of and that further complicate a potential bid for a project.

Interstate 70 has become a parking lot on frequent occasions during the winter months. Image: SnowBrains

While this is obvious to help alleviate the pain during the winter months and help bring increased revenue to ski resorts, a lot of people are forgetting important drawbacks in the equation.  First, I-70 is not the most traveled on highway in Colorado and in the Denver area.  While the interstate did see over a million vehicles traveling during the January 2018 peak times it is consistent which means the rail option wouldn’t be either from a ridership standpoint.  This issue of transportation only exists in the winter, specifically the weekends and some summertime spots like July 4th.  The safety pups of the world have a fair argument in some cases with this topic too.  Yes, the tunnels can be quite packed and there are safety precautions taken which help to avoid these pileups in case of an accident or fire but it still isn’t enough to warrant development for a rail option.  Skiers and snowboarders would love to be able to meet up at the train station and ride out to the mountain for a day of fun, come off and enjoy a few apres drinks and get back on the train home, this is still a far off hope at this point.

What does it boil down to… a first-world problem at its definition?

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