Our community recently learned about a proposal to reactivate the Tennessee Pass rail line for freight traffic. The Tennessee Pass rail line roughly starts in Pueblo to the east and connects to Dotsero. Eagle County and the towns of Avon, Eagle, Minturn and Red Cliff are collaborating to gather information, solicit community input, and determine the most appropriate and effective input for our regional community. Please note that although this forum is being hosted on Avon.org, this is a combined community effort, and information will be updated regularly.
Eagle County and the Town of Avon have not taken a position on the reactivation of the rail line. The law firm of Kaplan, Kirsch and Rockwell ("KKR") has been jointly retained by Eagle County and the Town of Avon, to obtain their national expertise with railroads. We are currently working with KKR to understand the federal approval process for reactivation of the rail line.
The rail line is owned by Union Pacific Rail Road ("UPRR"). On December 31, 2020 Colorado Midland & Pacific Railway Co. ("Midland"), a newly formed subsidiary of Rio Grande Pacific Corp., announced it had secured a lease with UPRR to operate freight and, potentially, passenger trains on the Tennessee Pass rail line. The lease grants Midland the right to refurbish the existing rail line and use the rail line for hauling freight.
On January 29, 2021, the Surface Transportation Board indefinitely postponed the effective date of the lease, which was set to take effect on January 30, 2021 in response to protests filed by Colorado Pacific Railroad, local residents and environmental groups.
To the extent a lease becomes effective or the rail line is activated, we understand that refurbishment of the rail line may cost as much as $250 million dollars.
We further understand that the rail line may be available for passenger rail use. The cost of operating passenger rail is expected to be more than what passenger revenues would support; therefore, any potential passenger rail option is expected to require subsidies. The collaborative rail group is in the process of better understanding the potential costs and potential state and federal matching funds for passenger rail. At this time we do not know if this is a viable or realistic opportunity. There is also potential to utilize a portion of the rail corridor for regional recreation trails and for regional utilities which will be explored further.
This information is preliminary and we hope to add more details as soon as possible. We understand that many in the community have an interest, and potential concerns, with any proposal to reactivate the rail line. We encourage you to follow this issue and provide comments as we learn more and as this process unfolds.
More information, including a Q&A / FAQ section, can be found at https://engage.avon.org/tennessee-rail-line?tool=news_feed#tool_tab.
The map below shows Colorado Pacific Railroad's plan for the Tennessee Pass Line.