Government & Politics  April 16, 2024

Front Range Passenger Rail to begin polling soon

The Front Range Passenger Rail District, the group created through legislation to evaluate whether to build a passenger rail network from Fort Collins through Pueblo, will begin gauging public sentiment in the next couple of weeks about a tax that would be applied in the rail district if the organization decides to place the issue on the November ballot.

The poll, using a sample size of 1,000, will propose a sales-tax level of 0.25% or 0.35%, or pose questions about both, Andy Karsian, FRPR general manager, told the executive committee in a meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The dilemma: Results from the polling won’t be available by April 26 when the full board is set to decide on the ballot question. And the district does not yet have an estimated cost of developing the rail network and operating it.

“We won’t have the polling data. Nonetheless, we are coming to the board meeting in anticipation of making a go, no-go decision,” said FRPR chairman Chris Nevitt. “What is it we’re recommending (to the full board).” 

Karsian outlined a list of discussion points for the board, including details of a campaign, how it will be financed, who will run it and more. “Every day we wait is another day into the campaign cycle,” he said.

“If the polling continues to come back positive, I really don’t want to wait until the end of May to make this decision,” Nevitt said. “I want a sense of the board: Are we still game to go forward with this if the polling comes forward as we think it might,” he asked.

Previous polling, without asking about tax rates, has shown widespread support in general for passenger rail.

Board member Joan Peck, who serves as Longmont’s mayor, said she thinks the decision is already behind. “For me, I think we’re late. I was just in the Longmont Economic Development Partnership, and they were not on board. I was shocked. I’d like to know what the Denver folks are thinking. If we wait until the end of July, it’s not going to work, from my perspective.”

Board member Brent Butzin, an attorney who works with the Colorado Department of Transportation, said the full FRPR board needs to make the decision on the ballot issue and “if we need a special meeting I’m sure we can arrange that.”

Executive committee members said that a decision by the full board will depend on a couple of factors, including a meeting with Gov. Jared Polis Friday this week and a desire to assure that polling questions closely reflect the actual ballot language.

The Front Range Passenger Rail District will begin gauging public sentiment in the next couple of weeks about a tax that would be applied in the rail district if the organization decides to place the issue on the November ballot.

Ken Amundson
Ken Amundson is managing editor of BizWest. He has lived in Loveland and reported on issues in the region since 1987. Prior to Colorado, he reported and edited for news organizations in Minnesota and Iowa. He's a parent of two and grandparent of four, all of whom make their homes on the Front Range. A news junkie at heart, he also enjoys competitive sports, especially the Rapids.
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