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Should Colorado Spend $50 Million On Studying Disney- Style Mountain Monorail?

IP-5-2001 (October 2001)
Author: Beth I. Skinner

PDF of full Issue Paper
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Executive Summary

Enough studies! If this tax grab passes, it will add, at minimum, another three years until we even begin to fix the traffic problem on I-70. Despite the impression given, this proposal does not build a monorail, or anything else, in the mountain corridor. It is just another study replicating work being done by the Colorado and Federal Departments of Transportation. It will, however, cost every couple in Colorado about $40 out of their tax refunds.

Ever notice that the proponents of this tax increase only show artist conceptions of a mountain monorail and never a picture of an actual one from anywhere in the world? That’s because the technology the proponents are promising simply does not exist in the known universe. There is no rail system in the world that goes over mountaintops at 125 miles per hour. In fact, every monorail in existence is on flat land and only a few miles long.

A 300-mile magnetic levitation monorail system planned in Japan was dropped due to the estimated $200 million a mile cost and technical limitations. Germany recently canceled their plans also due to rising costs and environmental concerns. Las Vegas is currently building a three-mile monorail system on its flat land. It will cost approximately $162 million per mile to build and maintain.

Somehow the proponents of this tax increase want us to believe their promise that they can build a 170-mile system snaking around steep mountains with freezing conditions for only $25 million a mile.

This is not the first time Colorado taxpayers have been sold a “bill of goods” on fantasy transportation systems. In the early 1970’s the Regional Transportation District (RTD) promised to build a 90-mile system of Personal Rapid Transit, or PRT, to be completed by 1980. This was to be a system of small driverless cars on special track that would zip folks through the metro area at the push of a button. The taxpayers voted for it, and now we still have the tax but no PRT.

The baggage system at DIA was to be the first of its kind in the world. After causing a two-year delay and doubling the cost of the airport, it was scrapped. Will we be duped again?

The real solutions to the I-70 mess will include road improvements, bus rapid transit, congestion pricing (peak time tolling), high occupancy lanes, and competition. Let’s not spend more money on another study.