The bill creates the front range passenger rail district (district) for the purpose of planning, designing, developing, financing, constructing, operating, and maintaining an interconnected passenger rail system (system) along the front range. The district is specifically required to work collaboratively with the regional transportation district (RTD) to ensure interconnectivity with any passenger rail system operated by or for the RTD and with Amtrak on interconnectivity with Amtrak's Southwest Chief, California Zephyr, and Winter Park Express trains, including but not limited to rerouting of the Amtrak Southwest Chief passenger train. If deemed appropriate by the board of directors of the district and by the board of directors of RTD, the district may share with RTD capital costs associated with shared use of rail line infrastructure in the northwest rail line corridor for passenger train service.
The area that comprises the district extends from Wyoming to New Mexico and includes:
- The entirety of the city and county of Broomfield and the city and county of Denver;
- All areas within Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Douglas, El Paso, Huerfano, Jefferson, Larimer, Las Animas, Pueblo, and Weld counties that are located within the territory of a metropolitan planning organization (MPO);
- All areas within Huerfano, Las Animas, and Pueblo counties that are not located within the territory of a MPO and are located within a county precinct that is located wholly or partly within 5 miles of the public right-of-way of interstate highway 25; and
- All areas within Larimer and Weld counties that are not located within the territory of a MPO and are located within a county precinct that is north of the city of Fort Collins and is located wholly or partly within 5 miles of the public right-of-way of interstate highway 25.
The district is governed by a board of directors composed of appointees of transportation planning organizations that have jurisdiction within the territory of the district, the governor, and the executive director of the department of transportation (CDOT), as well as a nonvoting representative of RTD, and, if the respective governors and chief executive officers choose to make appointments, nonvoting representatives of the BNSF Railway, the Union Pacific Railroad, Amtrak, and communities in Wyoming and New Mexico. Of the directors appointed by the governor, one must be a representative of organized labor and one must be a representative of a conservation organization with expertise in transit-oriented land use planning. The board must be fully appointed by April 1, 2022, with an earlier appointment deadline for some appointees. The board must convene for its initial meeting not later than May 15, 2022, and on that date, the existing southwest chief and front range passenger rail commission is terminated and any remaining commission funds are transferred to the district.
The district is authorized to exercise the powers necessary to plan, design, develop, finance, construct, operate, and maintain the system including but not limited to:
- The power, subject to the approval of the voters of the district and other specified limitations, to levy a sales and use tax and to exercise specified taxing authority common to special districts within the district and to issue bonds;
- The power, subject to the approval of the owners of property within a 2-mile radius of any existing or proposed passenger rail station, to create a station area improvement district with the authority to levy additional sales and use tax, special assessments on real property, or both, to cover the costs of construction, operation, and maintenance of the station;
- The power to enter into public-private partnerships; and
- The power to employ its own personnel or contract with public or private entities, or both, for the operation and maintenance of the system.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as introduced.)