Create Front Range Passenger Rail District
The act 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. The district must also coordinate with the department of transportation (CDOT) to ensure that any system is well-integrated into the state's multimodal transportation system and does not impair the efficiency or safety of or otherwise adversely affect existing transportation infrastructure or operations. 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:
- 10 appointees of transportation planning organizations that have jurisdiction within the territory of the district as follows:
- 4 appointees appointed by each metropolitan planning organization (MPO) that represents more than 1,500,000 residents in the district; except that any city and county or municipality that has 55% or more of the MPO's territory shall appoint one of the 4 directors that would otherwise be appointed by the MPO;
- 2 appointees from each metropolitan planning organization (MPO) that represents more than 500,000 but fewer than 1,000,000 residents in the district; except that any city and county or municipality that has 55% or more of the MPO's territory shall appoint one of the 2 directors that would otherwise be appointed by the MPO;
- One appointee appointed by the Pueblo area council of governments; and
- One appointee appointed by the south central council of governments.
- 6 appointees appointed by the governor subject to confirmation by the senate who must collectively have professional experience or expertise in specified areas;
- One appointee appointed by the executive director of CDOT;
- One nonvoting representative of RTD;
- One nonvoting representative appointed by the I-70 mountain corridor coalition, or any successor entity to the coalition; 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.
In addition to the professional experience or expertise requirements, at least one of the directors appointed by the governor must be a resident of a county, city and county, or municipality through which light or commuter rail was planned as part of RTD's voter-approved Fastracks program. Each director appointed by a transportation planning organization must be or have been a member of the board of directors of the appointing authority and must represent or have represented a member jurisdiction of the appointing authority that is wholly or partly included within the district. 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. The existing southwest chief and front range passenger rail commission is terminated, effective July 1, 2022, and any remaining commission funds are transferred to the district no later than July 1, 2022.
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, to exercise specified taxing authority common to special districts within the district, and to issue bonds. Before submitting a ballot question to establish any district tax, the district must publish a proposed services development plan, an operating plan, and a detailed financing plan, certify that it has made every reasonable effort to secure federal funding for the system, and approve the submission of the question by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of all voting directors of the board.
- 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.
The district must publish and present a comprehensive annual report to the legislative committees with jurisdiction over transportation and each transportation planning organization that appoints directors to the district board. If the district levies a tax, the state auditor must conduct a biennial district-funded audit of the district.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)