Front Range rail board delays ballot funding measure

Shanna Lewis /KRCC
The Union Depot in Pueblo, Colo. The Front Range Passenger Rail District is set to link Pueblo to Fort Collins by train. Gov. Polis signed a bill creating the district at the former passenger rail station.

It appears all but certain that voters along Colorado’s Front Range will not be asked to raise sales taxes this year to help pay for a planned passenger rail line between Fort Collins and Pueblo. 

Front Range Passenger Rail district officials had been under pressure, including from Gov. Jared Polis, to put a measure on the 2024 ballot to help fund a new passenger rail line connecting most of the state’s largest cities.

The board on Friday voted to approve a resolution directing district staff to continue their planning efforts before a ballot timing decision is made. While the resolution did not explicitly say 2026 was the new plan, board members said the district needs more time to do planning work, build support for the project, and would work towards asking voters to approve the funding with a 2026 ballot measure.

“It was always going to be a scramble to be ready to go in 2024 and we would have had a lot of things working against us,” said Claire Levy, a governor-appointed board member. “I'm really grateful for the breathing room.”

Levy said delaying the ballot measure would give the board more time to secure additional federal funding for the project and make a more complete pitch to voters, a sentiment echoed by board chair Chris Nevitt at previous meetings.

“The best course of action is to step into 2026 as the intent of the board to go to the voters with a more complete package,” he said earlier this month. 

The Colorado Department of Transportation is still working on a key planning document called a service development plan that will help firm up the project’s costs, routes and schedule. That report is expected to be finished sometime in 2025.

Other board members say the district should leverage new revenue streams from the state to help land bigger federal grants. They are hoping to get a bare-bones service going before asking voters down the road to fund improvements to that.