The Front Range Rail Commission recommended on Friday that a planned Pueblo-to-Cheyenne passenger rail line go through Boulder and Longmont.
The recommendation is not binding. Planning work will still consider two other routes; one that follows the Interstate 25 corridor north of the Denver metro and one that splits to the east along E-470.
The line’s route will be critical for communities along the line and its potential usefulness, should it ever become a reality. That possibility is looking ever more likely, as the project now has support from state leaders and the federal government.
It’s important for the commission to make a recommendation now as the legislature is set to take up a bill the further the project, commission chair Jim Souby said Friday.
"I'd love for this to be an accepted declaration, if you want to call it that, or preference,” Souby said. “But right now the fact that it's a recommendation, I think, will make our entire effort much clearer to people."
Some commission members, including those representing the Denver Region Council of Governments, the North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Regional Transportation District, abstained from the vote. They said their respective boards have not yet come to conclusions about a preferred route.
But there’s already significant political support for the Boulder-Longmont route. Early state modeling shows it would have the highest ridership among the three options, and communities and political leaders along that route have been impatiently waiting for RTD to finish its long-promised B Line from Denver to Longmont.
The rail commission hopes to capitalize on that existing desire for rail.
“Sometimes challenges create opportunities,” said commissioner Sal Pace.
Though the RTD board has not yet formally endorsed the Boulder-Longmont route, the agency and the state hope to collaborate on the line to save money.