Amtrak’s Southwest Chief is a long distance passenger train that travels daily from Chicago to Los Angeles. Some riders travel the full route, others use it as their primary transportation between shorter distances. The train follows the historic Santa Fe Trail, one of the oldest commerce routes in the American West. Along the way, it passes through Southern Colorado—Lamar, LaJunta, and Trinidad—and then into Raton in Northern New Mexico. But the rails are aging, and the Southwest Chief could be diverted, bypassing Colorado and Northern New Mexico entirely.
Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 6:50 pm
The annual legislative session is typically marked with plenty of partisanship – but this year lawmakers in both parties are working together on flood relief bills. As dozens of natural disaster bills are making their way in the statehouse, some of the more significant policies are stalled.
Amtrak's Southwest Chief runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, passing through towns in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. The future of the route is in question, as the current rail lines require upgrades in order to maintain passenger rail speeds. A partnership is on the table to share expenses for the upgrades; as proposed, Colorado’s portion would be about $40 million over the course of ten years. A bill making its way through Colorado’s legislature would set up a commission to study the issue, as well as the possibility of adding a depot in Pueblo.
Wind turbine manufacturer Vestas says it’s expecting to add at least 850 factory workers statewide this year. 400 have already been hired. The announcement comes after one of the best years for orders placed with the company, and after leaner previous years led to a series of layoffs at its Colorado plants. In a statement, Vestas says 80 of those workers will be at its Pueblo facility, where they’re expected to reach full capacity this year. The company also says it expects by the end of the year to employ more than 2000 total workers in its four factories in the state.
Alpine skier Melanie Schwartz is racing for Team USA at the Paralympics this week. The part-time Aspen resident was born without a femur, but started skiing at a young age. This will be her second Paralympics, but her first competing for the United States. In 2010 she raced for Canada. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen has this profile.
At the U.S. Adaptive Alpine National Championships, skiers fly down a steep slalom course at Buttermilk Mountain, just outside of Aspen. The competition, in mid-February, is one of the last contests before the Paralympic games.
Colorado’s 2014 legislative session is already halfway over. So far lawmakers have tackled a whole host of issues – everything from gun law repeals to wildfire and flood related measures.
By all accounts this year’s session has been much less contentious compared to the previous year. In 2013, Democrats used their majority to pass stricter gun laws, a new voting bill, and tougher renewable energy standards for electric coops.
Colorado is no longer the least obese state in the country, according to a new Gallup poll released yesterday. KUNC’s Luke Runyon reports.
Since 2010 Colorado has consistently topped lists as having the slimmest population in the country. Not anymore. Montana has usurped the title, where 19.6% of the population is obese, compared to Colorado’s 20.4, putting the Centennial State in second place. Mississippi has the highest level, at 35 percent.
Dozens of school superintendents told lawmakers on the house education committee Monday that Colorado needs to do more to restore K through 12 budget cuts. After a 2013 ballot initiative failed to pass and solve the state’s funding challenges, the problem now falls into the laps of lawmakers. A bi-partisan bill to begin pumping more money into schools got its first hearing at the capitol.
News last week that Republican Congressman Cory Gardner is entering the U.S. Senate race to try and unseat Democrat Mark Udall sent shock waves through Colorado’s political landscape. The move has caused some Republicans to drop out of the race. As part of our weekly Capitol Conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to reporters about the change.
Wednesday’s surprising race swap between Representative Cory Gardner and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck may demonstrate a game changer for Colorado’s Republican Party. Colorado State University political science professor Kyle Saunders says the solidly Republican 4th Congressional District is a more natural fit for Ken Buck. He thinks Gardner has a better opportunity to win the Senate race against incumbent Democrat Mark Udall.
Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 10:29 am
The market for legal recreational marijuana in Colorado is booming, and the state is expecting millions of dollars more in tax revenues that initially projected. That has lawmakers grappling with the best way to spend all of that additional cash.
Lawmakers are rolling out a new bi-partisan funding plan for K through 12 schools, but many in the education community are not board with it. As part of our capitol conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to statehouse reporters about the education agenda this session, and some unusual alliances it's creating.
School superintendents in Colorado are concerned about the state’s legislative agenda this session. Nearly every school district in the state wrote a letter asking lawmakers to focus exclusively on restoring budget cuts to schools and drop bills they’re calling unnecessary. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
The Black Forest Fire/Rescue District has released some of the findings from an independent investigation into Fire Chief Bob Harvey’s response during last year’s devastating blaze. KRCC’s Andrea Chalfin reports.
Four of the six Republican candidates seeking to replace Governor John Hickenlooper in the fall faced off in their first formal debate last night at the Denver Post. As Bente Birkeland reports, they touched on a host of topics – including the two missing candidates.
Construction on U.S. 24 through Ute Pass started today resulting in lane closures until April. KRCC's Rachel Gonchar reports:
Flood mitigation construction along the eastbound route has all traffic shifted to westbound lanes. The Colorado Department of Transportation says it will stay that way for around two weeks until it’s completed. The traffic will then shift to the eastbound lanes so the work can continue on the other side.
UPDATE: According to Chaffee County Sheriff spokeswoman Laura Smith, an x-ray of the explosive device determined it was a "practice round" and nothing suspicious. The Buena Vista Police Department re-took custody of the scene, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will take the device back to the crime lab for processing. Streets have reopened and the investigation is ongoing.
An explosive device in the back of a pickup truck closed streets and around the Buena Vista stoplight.
"The library and nearby buildings were evacuated, streets were closed and a code red alert was broadcast to the community. Schools were also locked down as a 'precautionary measure,' [BV Police Chief] Tidwell said."
The article goes on to say that El Paso County bomb squad is on its way to Buena Vista.
"We had a lady that came to the PD this morning after 7 and reported that there was an explosive device in the back of her pickup," Tidwell said. The woman apparently parked her vehicle to clean the library, and discovered the what she believed to be an explosive device when she returned to her car.
It takes water to produce electricity, but how much water varies a lot depending on the fuel source and the power generating technology. In Colorado, around half a percent of our total water usage is used to generate electricity.
It’s a small percentage, says Stacy Tellinghusen, water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates, a non-profit conservation group, but adds that it’s not inconsequential.
Colorado is embarking into uncharted territory as the Department of Transportation creates its first public private partnership along U.S. Highway 36. CDOT officials say they don’t have the money to repair and maintain all the state’s roads and bridges and this agreement is necessary. But as Bente Birkeland reports, several lawmakers have serious concerns and want to slow down the project.
Two are dead in separate avalanches in Colorado this week. KRCC’s Elaina Formby reports.
One avalanche caught two snowmobilers, killing one near Kebler Pass, west of Crested Butte. Another avalanche by the North Fork Swan River, south of Keystone Ski Resort, caught two skiers. One escaped, the other, a man in his 40s from the Front Range, was found dead at 11:30 this morning.
A new poll released by Quinnipiac University suggests Colorado voters believe marijuana legalization is hurting the state’s reputation. But as KRCC’s Nat Stein reports, voters still continue to support the laws.
51% of polled voters in the state say legal pot is bad for Colorado’s image. Only 38% say the new laws are helping.
Last summer Colorado officials rolled out a new state brand and logo. It’s popular among some groups but received mixed support at the state capitol. A Republican bill to send the branding question to a vote of the people failed at the statehouse. As part of capitol conversation series, Bente Birkeland talks to reporters about the back story and where the branding issue goes from here.
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief Rail Service runs through southern Colorado and into New Mexico on its way from Chicago to Los Angeles. The route faces repair costs, and Colorado’s portion of that could be about 40 million dollars over the course of 10 years. As KRCC’s Andrea Chalfin reports, a new economic impact study breaks down what those repairs mean to Southern Colorado, and what it would take to add a train station in Pueblo.
Researches are using lasers to determine snowpack. These images show measurements of snow water equivalent (top) and snow albedo, or reflectivity (image) for the Tuolumne River Basin in California's Sierra Nevada in April, 2013. Albedo shows the percentage of sunlight reflected back; the lower the albedo, the faster the snowmelt rate and runoff.
Scientists in Colorado are working to improve runoff forecasting in the West so water managers can meet growing needs in the future. A growing population coupled with climate change means every drop will count. Scientists are mapping terrain and snow with lasers to provide a more accurate picture of the snowpack. It's called the NASA JPL Airborne Snow Observatory. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen spoke with Jeff Deems, a research scientist with the University of Colorado, Boulder. He’s involved with the project.
A bill to study how to upgrade the state’s emergency radio communication system is moving through the statehouse. Lawmakers say the bill is important in the wake of recent wildfires and floods. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.