Monday, August 21, 2006

There's been some talk again about a train for the I70 corridor that runs West through the mountains from Denver. One article address this can be found at at the Rocky Mountain News. Last January Environmental and Urban Economics did a nice write up on the background. Not only is Denver's population booming but the population in the mountains is growing fast. Many solutions have been looked at. A few years ago a monorail solution was wrote off as being too expensive. The groups are claiming that a new technology for trains in Switzerland has changed things enough that a train can be built for less than $4 billion.

I'm skeptical of the cost. They seem to be talking about a double-tracked elevated railway. Traditional monorails cost $125 million or more to construct when built in relatively flat areas. The I-70 corridor is anything but that. And there has been very little talk from these groups about what it will cost in terms of concrete numbers. They simply repeat claims that it'll cost less than $4 billion and even that it'll be less expensive than building additional freeway mileage. I wasn't able to find very much information on it looking on the Internet myself. If anyone has anything more concrete, please share it with us in the comments. Until then, it seem a bit like the kid that claims he's better than Pele but isn't willing to prove it.

What's more interesting about this development is the lack of public discourse over what the problems are and how important they are in the grand scheme of things. Today's Denver Post had an article pointing that Colorado's per student funding for it's public colleges and universities is the 3rd lowest in the nation. Issues like these are important to keep in mind because we're talking about congestion. Congestion is simply people waiting in line to get through a spot on the free. The problems it creates on the I70 corridor are arguably less important. One result can be a lack of growth in the tourism industry in those areas. While it's important to have a variety of jobs, how worried should we be about the lack of growth (or even the loss) of jobs that are relatively low paying for the most part? The other issue that the congestion adds to is pollution. A large part of that occurs from simply operating a car. Stop and go traffic makes the problem worse. But how much better would the pollution situation be if we spent $5 to $10 billion on addressing the congestion problem on that corridor? Even if we got ½ the traffic onto the train, we don't yet have the capacity to consistently produce green energy for the train to operate on. How much good would come from that? We'd be billions to simply shift the source of the pollution from the mountains to Ft. Morgan or Pueblo. Is it really worth it?

And what's with blogs that don't allow for comments? Are they afraid people may point out claims that aren't factual? Colorado Environmentalist is one of them. Apparently they don't want anyone pointing out that there is no proof that “the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion is calling for strong immediate action” in regards to global warming. One thing that is true is that an overwhelming number of English teachers want a comma in that phrase.

And keep safe when the those scattered storms come through at night. As Walter in Denver points out, Denver's the 2nd most dangerous city for lightening.

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