The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Front Range Southwest Chief & Passenger Rail Commission recently applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program for a $225,000 grant to study linking the Southwest Chief with Pueblo and Colorado Springs.

Officials want to create a spur from La Junta to Colorado Springs and Pueblo that would connect to the main line, potentially bringing thousands of additional passengers to the route.

The grant is expected to cover about half of the study’s cost, with the rest paid by the rail commission, CDOT, Pueblo County, La Junta and the Colorado Rail Passenger Association.

A decision on whether the local study will receive federal funding is expected early next year.

Meanwhile, another study, known as the Front Range Passenger Rail Study, started several months ago and will continue through next year to determine the feasibility of a passenger rail line between Trinidad and Fort Collins.

Officials said infrastructure for a Southwest Chief spur to Fort Collins and Pueblo could also be used for a Front Range rail system, which should be an advantage in acquiring federal funds for the spur study.

The study would evaluate costs and existing infrastructure, predict fare revenues and consider possible station locations and operational options.

A former study released last January by the Rail Passengers Association, said Amtrak’s Southwest Chief passenger rail line puts $49 million a year into Colorado’s economy.

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