Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Heartland Expressway gets infrastructure grant while Amtrak scrambles

Construction on the estimated half-billion dollar Heartland Expressway connecting Rapid City with I-80 in Nebraska and I-25 in Wyoming or Colorado is not completely stalled but it is glacial.

The Nebraska Department of Transportation will receive some $18.3 million from a federal infrastructure grant to convert about 14.6 miles of US 385 between Chadron and Alliance from an existing two-lane into a four-lane divided highway.

The speed limit on Nebraska 71 is 60 miles per hour on the 75 miles of bone-dry high prairie grassland south of Hot Springs between Crawford and Scottsbluff. It's potentially deadly during a blizzard. US18/US85 between Maverick Junction, South Dakota and Lusk, Wyoming is no better; besides, I-25, especially through the Denver metro, sucks at biblical proportions so does flying through DIA with its likelihood of a strip or body cavity search.

In 1921 my maternal grandparents honeymooned in Hot Springs riding the train from Humphrey, Nebraska and my grandfather was a career conductor for the Union Pacific Railroad. I have at least one vague memory from my toddlerhood going over the Continental Divide in Colorado while riding the California Zephyr between Omaha and Emeryville, California near Castle AFB where my dad was stationed and the place of my birth.

Now, growth on the Front Range is driving planners to pick up the pace on passenger rail.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, there have been many ideas to connect Cheyenne all the way down to Albuquerque, New Mexico with a commuter rail line. But getting the public, local and state governments all on the same page with the details has proved difficult. In December, the commission also requested nearly $9 million dollars from the state to conduct a 2-year public engagement campaign on the premise of a Front Range passenger rail along I-25. It was granted that money in this year’s Senate Bill 1, a large transportation funding measure. [KUNC]
Meanwhile the Trump Organization is pledging to kill passenger rail service while traffic between the Black Hills and Denver continues to increase as does the volume between Denver and Santa Fe.
The group, the local chapter for Americans for Prosperity, which is financed by the oil billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch to advance conservative causes, fanned out and began strategically knocking on doors. Their targets: voters most likely to oppose a local plan to build light-rail trains, a traffic-easing tunnel and new bus routes. [How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country]
Legal cannabis for New Mexico's adults could help foot the bill for Positive Train Control. Equip the Rail Runner to connect with Amtrak farther south in New Mexico and to El Paso. Put the Rail Runner into downtown Denver to connect with the California Zephyr, maybe even into Cheyenne, Wyoming.

I get the idea of a future I-25E but now is the time to connect the Southwest Chief to the Empire Builder at Shelby, Montana through Denver, too.

2 comments:

R. Vail said...

A more modest passenger train shuttle service connection between maybe Pueblo-Denver-Ft. Collins seems more practical and achievable. Whether such a service could be later expanded further to other out-of-state destinations would then be left to some later time for making a decision.

larry kurtz said...

Make it so.