Cheadle: The City should re-rout the train tracks

Connor Cheadle

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

It is time for Fort Collins to say goodbye to the railroad running through the center of town. No matter how much we want to believe it, Fort Collins can no longer be considered a small town. We must recognize our City is growing and start thinking like a big city.

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In light of the recent incident, involving one casualty and road blocks for hours through town, it’s time we take a critical look at the train line running through the heart of our city.

In 2017, Fort Collins surpassed 165,000 residence and continues to grow at a rate of about 2 percent a year. According to Colorado Department of Transportation, 86 percent of all Colorado growth between 2015 and 2030 is predicted to be in the Front Range region. The Fort Collins-Loveland metro area was the 12th fastest-growing metropolitan region in the country between 2013 and 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  

In light of the recent incident, this means that we need to take a critical look at the train line running through the heart of our city.

Our city’s growth means that we will be at much greater risk of train accidents.  There are more drivers on the roads and pedestrians on the sidewalks than a few years ago. Naturally, a growing population will result in increased traffic flow.

The train itself intercepts nine major intersections including College Avenue and causes numerous delays, as many of us have undoubtedly experienced. These delays affect almost every aspect of life, from Poudre School District busing to the response times of first responders. In a city where traffic is already becoming a major struggle, a major freight line does not help.

In addition to traffic, the noise caused by the train can be a great nuisance to the whole city. The common “2 a.m. train” wakes my neighbors and me every night and can be extremely irritating when trying to get a decent night’s sleep. Fortunately, the local government has both issues of traffic and noise on its radar, but it appears that not much progress has been made on either front.

The City has conducted several studies looking at traffic and noise effects of the train, but so far none have manifested into real change.

In 2015 the City attempted to get a waiver from the Federal Railroad Administration to implement quiet zone intersections near Old Town but was denied the petition. The FRA administrator said that they would establish a working group to further develop solutions, but it appears that not much has been achieved in the time since the request was denied.

Simply installing “Quiet Zones” wastes funds and only prolongs the greater problem, how much longer can our traffic and urban development tolerate a major train line? Moving the train line would solve these problems and free up space for potential urban or infrastructure development.

Some might say the train is a FoCo tradition or such a project would be to large to undertake, but these arguments do not address long term problems.

Moving the train line is undoubtedly a major project but it is a smart investment that the City should undertake sooner rather than later. Moving the train will give Fort Collins the breathing room to grow and develop into a major city in a healthy and effective way.

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Connor Cheadle can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on twitter at @ConnorCheadle.