Colorado House Comes To Aid of RTD

With the Denver area’s Regional Tranportation District struggling to fulfill the promises it made to voters who approved its FasTracks program, the Colorado legislature will likely come to its aid.  As Kevin Flynn reports in today’s Rocky Mountain News and Jeffrey Leib covers in the Denver Post, one of the major problems facing RTD is that the financial numbers underlying FasTracks assume the district will be able to use rail right of way owned by BNSF and Union Pacific railroad companies.

RNSF and UP, however, have balked at allowing commuter rail along their right of way, complaining about the liability this would expose them to if a freight train were to derail and hit a commuter or light rail train, as happened in the Los Angeles area in 2005 when a man abandoned his Jeep Cherokee on the tracks, causing a freight train to derail and hit two commuter rail trains, killing 11 people.

Here about complaints about the bill after the jump…Senate Bill 219, sponsored by Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and (D-Coal Creek Canyon) Representative Claire Levy (D-Boulder) would limit railroad’s liability in accidents that involve commuter trains.

While the bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on a 7-4 vote, some who voted yes also raised objections.

The Rocky quotes House Judiciary Committe Chair Rep. Terrance Carroll (D-Denver) as saying “I will hold my nose and vote.”

This vote did not come down to party, as three Republicans and four Democrats supported the bill, while 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans opposed it.

Rep. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) complained the railroads had convinced RTD “to do their dirty work.”

BNSF and UP say that liability protection is non-negotiable to them if RTD wants to use their right of way.