Tourist train working to address impacts from overnight operations; Glenwood Springs Citizens Alliance worried about precedent
A luxury tourist train that began making overnight stops in Glenwood Springs last year is working to address neighborhood concerns around lighting and noise impacts when the train is parked at the Glenwood rail yard on Devereux Road.
For the Glenwood Springs Citizens Alliance (GSCA), which is fighting the proposed expansion of the Rocky Mountain Industrials limestone quarry north of town, there’s also a concern about setting a precedent with regards to local train activity.
RMI proposes to truck the limestone from the quarry to a new loadout facility at the rail yard for shipment east to Denver.
“For the GSCA, the operation raised concerns about setting a precedent for impacts from train operations, since a rail loading facility and idling freight train are key elements of the RMI mine expansion proposal,” the group wrote in its Jan. 26 update to email subscribers.
Last summer, the Canadian tourist train company Rocky Mountaineer launched the new Rockies to the Red Rocks route from Denver to Moab, Utah, including a stop four nights a week in Glenwood Springs.
The one-way trip features an overnight stay for passengers at one of Glenwood Springs’ hotels, which has been a boon for local tourism.
But the stop necessitates keeping the train parked in town before passengers reboard the next morning.
During that time, several train crew activities are conducted, including inspecting and preparing things for operations the next day, said Nicole Ford, director of communications and stakeholder relations for Rocky Mountaineer.
“This includes cleaning and provisioning the train, as well as a full safety inspection,” she said. “In order to conduct this work safely and effectively, we need to provide adequate lighting for the team, as well as power to conduct these activities.”
Initially, the train remained at the downtown station on Seventh Street while those operations were conducted. After a vandalism incident and noise complaints were received with that location, the train moved to the rail yard off Devereux Road.
That, too, prompted complaints from residents of the north Glenwood area regarding light pollution from the extra security lights that were needed, plus noise from the diesel engines, which have to be kept running to generate electricity for the other train functions, Ford explained.
“We made modifications to our overnight operations throughout last season to address concerns received about the lights and noise, and we continue to investigate additional solutions to further minimize impact on the community,” she said. “It is not our intention to negatively impact residents and our team has been working to identify potential solutions.“
Among the adjustments was shortening the hours of overnight operations to keep any noise and extra lighting to a minimum, she said.
Some lighting is necessary to help prevent vandalism while the train sits overnight.
For its part, the GSCA in a letter to the Rocky Mountaineer owners offered some suggestions for different lighting fixtures and ways to shield the lighting so it doesn’t shine onto the nearby hillsides.
It also offered to endorse a proposal from the company to Union Pacific Railroad, owners of the rail yard, to bring electrical power outlets to the yard so that trains can plug in instead of running the locomotive engines to generate power.
GSCA spokesman Jeff Peterson said the group believes the tourist train is a benefit to the community. But any lingering impacts could set a bad precedent as the RMI proposal continues to be reviewed at the federal level, he said.
“When you allow a train to sit and idle on a long-term and continuous basis, we don’t want to see that as a precedent and be deemed as acceptable,” Peterson said.
RMI is seeking approval from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to greatly expand its quarry operation from about 20 acres to more than 320 acres, and to increase trucking from about 20 truckloads per day to as many as 500 daily loads between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to and from the waiting train at the loadout facility.
“We do want to work collaboratively with the (tourist train) operators, because overall it has been a positive addition to the community,” Peterson said. “But we want to make sure they are working as a community partner and maintaining the values the broader community of Glenwood Springs has.”
The tourist train plans to operate from April through October in this year, again with overnight stops in Glenwood Springs four nights per week.
Meanwhile, the quarry expansion proposal remains under review by the BLM, but is subject to completion of a study of the limestone deposit, which would determine the type of product most likely to be mined and sold from the quarry. That could determine whether a full environmental impact statement is needed, as opposed to a less-stringent level of review.
The BLM is also conducting a separate environmental assessment to determine the impacts of RMI’s plan to drill five groundwater monitoring wells in the mine expansion area.
Multiple legal challenges related to the current mine allegedly operating outside of its leased area and in violation of its Garfield County permit are also pending before the courts.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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