"You could live in Denver and commute to Salt Lake in three hours," said Skancke who spoke at a luncheon hosted by the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) on Friday afternoon.
DRCOG is a founding member of the Western High Speed Rail Alliance, which would connect Denver to five other cities (Reno, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Salt Lake City) using a high speed train that travels up to 200 miles per hour.
"Denver could really redefine itself from an economic diversification point of view," said Skancke, whose organization concluded that high speed rails work best when connecting communities within 500 miles of each other.
The Western High Speed Rail Alliance, created in 2009, is getting more attention from the Federal Rail Administration. Under President Barack Obama's plan, Skancke says the administration will have allocated $13 billion to support the planning and building of high speed rail systems across the country. Currently, only one high speed rail exists in the U.S., connecting Washington D.C. to Boston, Massachusetts.
"The rest of the world is so far ahead of us," Skancke said while mentioning that China will spend 180 billion dollars on high speed rail in the next 18 months. "We can't catch up. We have to be the leader."
A plan to build a high speed rail system through Denver, though, would take at least 20 years.
"People think 20 years is a long ways away. Twenty years is tomorrow. When you look at the scheme of things and how fast things move in our world today," he said.
Much of the funding for the intermountain train connections, which would cost "billions of dollars" according to Skancke, will come from the federal government. Private companies, though, will also likely contribute. Skancke says a national high speed rail system will cost "trillions" of dollars.
"I don't think you'll see people taking high speed rail from L.A. to New York City. It's not economically feasible. It doesn't make sense. Long haul airlines will still be in business. It's not even competition for the airlines," he said, also mentioning that high speed rail tickets will be comparable in price to airline tickets and, in some cases, cheaper.
Officials with the Western High Speed Rail Alliance say any plan they develop will compliment high speed rail plans currently being worked on by the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority.
copyright (KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)