Front Range Passenger Rail Making Progress on Service Development Plan

Front Range Passenger Rail (FRPR) is a planned passenger train service that will connect Front Range Coloradans to opportunities, adventure and each other. Initially, the service will operate from Fort Collins through Denver and extend south to Pueblo. The long-term vision is to expand the service to connect Colorado to New Mexico and Wyoming. To minimize costs and accelerate the service start date, FRPR plans to utilize existing tracks shared with freight railroads. The first train could be operational within the next 10-15 years.

Why now?

Colorado’s Front Range currently has a population of over 5 million people, which is expected to grow by an additional 3 million by 2050. This population growth presents infrastructure and environmental challenges, including traffic congestion, unpredictable travel times, and impacts on economic competitiveness and quality of life in the region.

One of the strategies being considered to address these challenges is the expansion of passenger rail. The Polis Administration has prioritized this initiative to provide climate-friendly travel options and boost economic vitality in the area.

Federal Funding Creates Possibility

During the last few years the stars have aligned, bringing momentum and the opportunity for federal dollars to support FRPR’s mission.

In 2021, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), aka, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  The law authorizes $1.2 trillion for transportation and infrastructure spending with $550 billion of that figure going toward “new” investments and programs.

Also in 2021, the Colorado Legislature passed SB21-238, establishing the Front Range Passenger Rail District. The District is a new local government with the mission to plan, design, construct, operate, and maintain a passenger rail system along the Front Range.

In 2022, Biden announced that $8.2 billion in IIJA funds would be allocated for high-speed rail and pipeline projects throughout the United States.  Colorado received $500,000 from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) as a part of the Corridor Identification and Development Program to support the development of Front Range Passenger Rail (FRPR).  This funding opens doors for additional federal dollars needed to move this major infrastructure project forward. 

What Does A Service Development Plan Include?

The FRPR District and Colorado Department of Transportation(CDOT) are working together on a Service Development Plan (SDP) for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). An SDP is a process that defines the where, when, and how for our future rail service.  The SDP also considers how to use existing railroad infrastructure and leverage railroad and community partnerships to create a train service people are excited to ride. A completed SDP makes the project eligible for millions of dollars in federal funding, which will be crucial for bringing safe, efficient, and reliable passenger rail to the Front Range.

The SDP defines:

  • Route
  • Station Locations
  • Service Schedules
  • Onboard Amenities
  • Costs and Financing
  • Fares
  • Infrastructure Improvements
  • Railroad Partnerships
  • Phasing and Implementation Plan

Once the preliminary SDP is approved, FRPR will enter the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) stage. NEPA is a decision-making process for all federal actions. It includes public involvement and requires that a project consider alternatives and measures to minimize harm to the surrounding environment. After NEPA approval, FRPR will enter final design and construction.

Check out the Front Range Passenger Rail website for much more information and to find out how you can get involved! FRPR is just one of the many initiatives Commuting Solutions supports on our mission to deliver innovative transportation options that connect people to places in the northwest metro region. Learn more about how Commuting Solutions is working on regional planning efforts.

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