Move Colorado is currently engaged in a strategic planning effort to look ahead at the next 3-5 years, identifying the key issues and opportunities to keep a strong transportation agenda moving forward. On April 8, 2011, Move Colorado hosted the Multi Modal Freight Rail Workshop when industry representatives and workshop participants were challenged to address how freight rail issues will impact and challenge Colorado and how they will be addressed. Industry representatives kicked-off the discussion: Peter Rickershauser, BNSF; Michael Ogborn, Managing Director, OmniTRAX; Jim Nadalini, Public Private Partnerships, BNSF; and Dick Hartman, Public Affrairs, Union Pacific Railroad. Bob Sakaguchi, Jacobs Engineering and Elena Wilken, CASTA lead the Workshop with assists from facilitators Randy Grauberger, Parsons Brinkerhoff, and Randy Harrison, Move Colorado – 40 participants worked through the issue/action dialogue and discussion format. Four main themes and action items are summarized below:
Key Multi-Modal Freight Initiatives
The CDOT Division of Transit and Rail has initiated a Comprehensive Statewide Freight and Passenger Rail Plan as required by Federal legislation to qualify for federal funding. The State Rail Plan will integrate the passenger and freight rail elements into the larger multi-modal and intermodal framework with a 30 year time horizon to be incorporated into the State Transportation Plan. The process will include stakeholder outreach, guidance by a steering committee, and will create a Vision of Rail in Colorado. The Move Colorado Workshop focused on issues and opportunities. Moving the issues to action and resolve should be included in the Rail Plan process.
In terms of Move Colorado’s strategic plan, the State Rail Plan will identify potential investment opportunities, and a long range service and investment program. The plan will provide a basis for future investments, but a key theme of the workshop will need to be addressed in the plan – what are the opportunities for public private partnerships, particularly at the local level, to meet freight rail infrastructure needs, and provide a framework for local economic development? Should this be addressed now, particularly with the new High Performance Transportation Enterprise and the current planning process initiated by the Governor as the county based Economic Development Plan for Colorado? Can this process be accelerated and coordinated?
Infrastructure Investment: The current freight rail network is limited in Colorado and cannot handle the projected growth – national demand for freight capacity is projected to outstrip current infrastructure. Public private partnerships will be necessary to realize the benefits of freight rail.
Regulation: Regulation is a key issue for freight at the federal and state level. There are multiple agencies involved in the regulatory process and issues at all levels to be addressed.
Economic Development and Community Impact: Local planning and zoning along rail corridors is an issue both as a potential constraint/obstacle and an opportunity for economic development – the new energy economy for example. Greater cooperation and partnerships should be pursued.
Planning: Better integration of freight issues into the planning process is needed. The State Rail Plan offers us that opportunity to get that done in Colorado’s Transportation Plan and future investments. Local planning needs attention, vision, less friction and more support.