top of page

April 25, 2024

Committee Passes Bill to Incentivize Economic Development in NW Colorado and Advance Mountain Passenger Rail

DENVER, CO - The House Finance Committee today passed legislation that would support both the realization of mountain passenger rail and economic diversification efforts in transitioning coal communities in Northwest Colorado. SB24-190 passed by a vote of 8-2.

“From new job opportunities to more transportation options, our Western Slope communities would greatly benefit from this bill,” said Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon. “In addition to our Front Range passenger rail legislation, this bill will bring our mountain and rural communities closer to an expanded rail system for transit and goods. We’re supporting the Western Slope, especially those in coal transition communities, to boost the economic security of our mountain and rural resort towns.”

“Connecting Steamboat Springs to Hayden to Craig through an expanded rail system would significantly boost our local economies by creating jobs and improving transit between our Colorado communities,” said Rep. Meghan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs. “Our legislation is a community-driven effort and would provide financial incentives to businesses in coal transition communities like Craig and Hayden when they use freight rail lines so we can keep those lines active and operational. By supporting diverse industries in our district, this would make a difference to the issues that are most impacting rural and rural resort communities, like housing supply and workforce shortages.”

SB24-190 would make the design and use of mountain passenger rail more sustainable by incentivizing the transportation of freight from companies that establish operations in coal transition communities along the potential rail line, particularly in Craig and Hayden. The bill would incentivizer businesses and operators to utilizefreight lines that are at risk of inactivity due to declining usage as a result of the transition away from coal. 

Through SB24-184, also sponsored by Speaker Julie McCluskie, Colorado has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring passenger rail to Northwest Colorado and connect the region as well as generate new economic opportunities for communities facing economic transition. The federal government has already committed billions of dollars to rail development nationwide, and there is a growing coalition of support throughout Northwest Colorado. The region is uniquely prepared for this moment, with an existing rail line that can be expanded and equipped for passenger use. 

The proposed mountain line would connect Denver to Winter Park, Steamboat Springs, Hayden, and Craig and allow for commuter transit between the towns. However, continued freight use of the rail line is key to the financial viability of passenger rail service. Bringing new businesses into Northwest Colorado will expand economic development, create new jobs in the area, and provide essential support for the rail line.

SB24-190 would create two income tax credits – one for businesses that use rail to transport their freight into or out of a coal transition community, and one for rail carriers that utilize a rail line at risk of inactivity or abandonment due to lack of demand. It would also make more of the region eligible for economic support from OEDIT, creating opportunities for economic diversification and offering needed support for mountain rail development. Potential mountain rail would also facilitate increased tourism in the region, create additional economic growth, and allow locals to commute safely between Winter Park and Craig, with stops in between.

bottom of page