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The cost of saving the Southwest Chief: To save the train route the State will need to find the money

The cost of saving the Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and the benefit to Southern Colorado.



An economic impact study published by Colorado State University-Pueblo Economics Professors Kevin Duncan and Michael Wakefield shows extending Amtrak’s Southwest Chief route into Pueblo would boost the local economy and add jobs.

The extension isn’t a guarantee yet though. Marc Megliari, media relations manager for Amtrak, said everything is premature, but Amtrak is “certainly open to it.”  

Currently, the route, which stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles, is in jeopardy of being moved out of Colorado completely, where it runs from Lamar to La Junta and then down to Trinidad, due to expenses associated with upgrading and replacing the track. Amtrak will cease maintenance on the track and move the route into Oklahoma if Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico decide not to help pay for it.

The direct effect of an estimated 3,200 visitors the Pueblo stop would bring is $2.1 million annually, according to the economic impact study. With a multiplier of 1.63, the total economic impact would be a approximately $3.4 million.  

“The spending multiplier indicates that one more dollar in tourism spending is associated with a $1.63 increase in state-level economic activity,” the report stated.

In terms of jobs, the direct $2.1 million creates about 21 tourism jobs, and the spending created by those jobs creates an additional 11 jobs.

“The employment multiplier indicates that each new job directly related to rail tourism supports an additional 0.55 jobs in Colorado, or one more job serving rail tourism results in the creation of 1.55 total jobs.  The economic activity associated with rail tourism generates an additional $175,000 in state and local tax revenue,” said the report.

The benefits for even just maintaining the route could mean more economic activity for the state. 

Amtrak has stated that around 100 miles of rail in Kansas will be replaced, and the economic impact depends on how much of that rail is produced at the Evraz steel mill in Pueblo. If the rail is repaired without work from Evraz, Colorado will see no economic benefit. 

But if Evraz supplies all of the track, Colorado would generate $33 million in economic activity, more than 100 jobs and around $830,000 in local tax revenue, according to the study. If Evraz  supplies only some of the work, the impact would be around $13.2 million, 40 jobs and $335,000 in state and local tax revenue. 

 As for extending the track into Pueblo?

“We estimate that the total cost of maintaining current Southwest Chief service in Colorado and extending passenger rail service to Pueblo is approximately $74 million.  This figure includes the cost of a new station in Pueblo.  If these expenses are paid by the federal government this new spending in Colorado would generate an additional $145 million in economic activity, over 1,000 jobs, and about $4.5 million in state and local tax revenue,” the report said. 

Duncan and Wakefield found that within approximately 14 years economic benefit would match repair costs.        

Over a course of 10 years, the route would create $29-$34 million in revenue, depending on if the Pueblo stop is added, but worry still exists, as it will cost Colorado $40 million for the next decade to repair the track.

“Everybody’s concern is putting state funding into a federally funded issue,” said State Sen. Larry Crowder, who supports the extension. It was a red flag for him at first too, but said after researching, he found that it’s a new idea here but has been done in other states, especially on the East and West Coasts.

Local legislators, Rep. Leroy Garcia and Sen. Crowder, have introduced legislation that would create funding for the upgrades and allow the passenger train a stop in Pueblo.

At first, both legislators drafted separate bills. Crowder’s proposal only included keeping the route in Colorado. But after reading through Garcia’s bill which included extending the track, he said it made sense.

New Mexico has already passed a bill in the house guaranteeing their portion of funding, which will come from oil and gas revenue, but the senate failed to pass any of the five bills that sought to save the route, as the legislative session ended on Feb. 20. 

The legislature did authorize a study and collaboration among Colorado, Kansas and the New Mexico Department of Transportation, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported Feb. 21.

Kansas is also on track to save the route.

“The feeling I get, it’s purely gut feeling, but we won’t be the ones who will stop it,” said John Doll, state representative for Garden City, Kansas. “Out here in southwestern Kansas we’re really worried about it. It’s our only mode of transportation out east.”

While studies show the stop in Pueblo would give an economic boost to the region, Megliari said Amtrak still sees everything as premature, and the revenue it would bring Amtrak is unknown at this point. 

“One of the things that drives revenue is schedule, and what drives schedule is access,” Megliari said. The feasibility, he said, would have to be discussed with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation, because they own the tracks that would be used, when the time comes.

For Kansas, Doll said the primary goal is to save the route, but a stop in Pueblo would increase ridership and boost the economy, though it is unclear how much the town would be impacted.

Another track, which would run from Newton, Kansas to Oklahoma City, is also being discussed. Doll said it would also increase economic revenue for Garden City. “I’d love to see both happen,” Doll said, but if a stop in Pueblo is what seals the deal and approves the $40 million, he supports it.

A New Mexico legislature couldn’t be reached, but Melissa Dosher, spokeswoman for the New Mexico Department of Transportation, told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the CSU-Pueblo study was too geographically specific to tell if the stop would benefit New Mexico. 

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Denver’s Wes Watkins dynamic new future-funk EP is from another planet




Future-Funk Party Starter | Wes Watkins

Dreams Out from Denver’s best kept secret Wes Watkins wears so many musical hats it needs a rack; downtempo G-Funk homage and sweltering nee-Soul / Rn’B are all over this release, all covered with a thicc pop glaze and a penchant for electronic-sonic experimentation that keep every song fascinatingly adventurous while maintaining a danceability and groove that easily, easily warrants multiple listens. Don’t sleep on this one.

Lo-Fuzz Folkie | Hoi Ann

The beauty of Hoi Ann’s Tangenier lies in both what you can hear and what it may want you to not hear. Lo-fi folk and bedroom-pop are easily tangible on its surface, but the buzzy electronic tones that sparingly flourish the 5 songs of this release lie low and create a unique aural atmosphere for listeners, like hidden secrets for your ears only.

Indie-Punk Sweeties | Gestalt

The pop-punk shred-bois in Gestalt are back at it again; The irresistible combo of the Get Up Kids earnest midwestern-emo and smart pop-punk wit of the Wonder Years is strong on the tracks that encompass LongBoix, as is an acute fondness and growing appreciation for the finer indie rock of yesteryear. Well I guess this is growing up.

Psych-Rock Screamcore | Gone Full Heathen

On their criminally good self titled EP, Fort Collins heavies Gone Full Heathen friggin dare you to try and trap them in a single genre. Nice try, but they’ll just chew right through your puny ropes using a gnashing blend of crushing stoner-rock laced hardcore punk and overdriven psych-rock / post-metal induced bite like the righteous rock and roll wolves that they are.

All releases available for purchase now thru Bandcamp. Go Local!

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The Haze Craze for Lazy Days



There are many different styles of beer. Ranging from light lagers (think Bud Light) and ales to sours, stouts, and IPAs.

Within those styles, however, are varying styles.

For example, one would think a sour beer is a sour beer, right? Wrong. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, which defines every style of beer, there are six recognized European sour styles.

For IPAs, there are seven. American beers have four; stouts have three… You get the point.

Even with viewing the list of recognized styles, it’s not a complete list.

Take New England IPAs (NE IPA), as a prime example. Many breweries are currently mass producing this style of beer, and it’s selling like crazy.

You may have heard one of your annoying beer loving friends talk about drinking a “juice bomb,” or a requesting a “hazy IPA” at the pub, and shrugged it off. It turns out, they (sometimes) know what they are talking about.

What makes NE IPAs so popular when compared to a more traditional, West Coast IPA? NE IPAs have all of the hop flavors, without an overabundance of bitterness.

Instead of constantly adding hops throughout the boil to achieve a fruity flavor balanced by bitterness, the NE IPA has a small hop addition at the begging, and then nothing else until after the boil has finished.

That translates into a beer with very little bitterness, and plenty of hop aroma and flavor. Hops like Citra, Mosaic, Mosaic, Galaxy, and El Dorado are most common in NE IPAs, according to the Homebrewers Association. Those hops tend to impart a fruity, and dare I say, juicy flavor profile.

Between the juicy flavor and the seemingly natural haziness to NE IPAs, it’s not far fetched for an NE IPA to look like a tall glass of orange or grapefruit juice, only carbonated and full of alcohol.

NE IPAs are starting to gain momentum here in Colorado, with breweries turning their focus to the haze craze. Specifically, Odd13, WeldWerks, and Epic Brewing coming to mind.

Odd13 is based in Lafayette, Colo. and has a long list of NE-inspired IPAs constantly rotating through the tap room and distributed throughout the state. Codename: Super fan and Noob are two beers that are found in cans, and both offer a different approach to the haze craze.

WeldWerks is based in Greeley, Colo. and has accumulated a cult-like following in just a few short years for its Juicy Bits NE IPA. The brewery just started self-distributing locally, so you’ll have to make the trip to the brewery and pick up a crowler or four. Be sure to check the WeldWerks Facebook page for availability and limits. Yes, they have to place per person limits on how much you can purchase.

Epic Brewing recently announced its NE IPA, which will rotate between four different flavor profiles throughout the year. The cans will look the same but will be different colors as a quick way to tell identify which version you have.

So the next time you walk into a brewery or liquor store, it’s OK to ask for a hazy or juicy IPA. It’s a thing, and, frankly, they are damn good.

On Tap: By the time this hits newsstands, ThunderZone Pizza & Taphouse will have opened on the CSU-P campus. Located at 2270 Rawlings Blvd., the ThunderZone features 32 taps, a carefully curated tap list, and is locally owned.

At the opening, the tap list includes tasty brews from the likes of Florence Brewing and Lost Highway.

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Senators upend GOP health care bill in true Trump style… Twitter



WASHINGTON — When Sens. Mike Lee and Jerry Moran decided they were in ready to disrupt the GOP rewrite of the health care law, they chose President Donald Trump’s favorite medium.

They could not support Senate Republicans’ plan, the somewhat unlikely pair of conservatives tweeted at 8:30 p.m. Monday night, giving no heads up to the White House or Senate leaders before pressing send.

The story behind the statement reveals two senators willing to be branded as bill killers and seemingly unconcerned with trying to soften the blow with party leaders.

The announcement, coming after some 10 days of conversations between the men, stunned official Washington and left Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at least two votes short in the closely divided Senate from being able to move forward with the GOP bill, effectively sinking the measure. It landed shortly after Trump dined with a group of senators to discuss strategy – unwittingly plotting a plan that would immediately become outdated.

Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican leader, found out about Lee’s defection after the White House dinner of rosemary-grilled rib eye and summer vegetable succotash. He “had no idea it was coming,” Cornyn said.

Another Republican, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, found out from TV news.

Moran, a second-term lawmaker from Kansas who isn’t known for making waves, and Lee, a two-term senator from Utah who has clashed with Trump, have been talking over the past 10 days about the health care legislation and agreed the GOP bill did not go far enough to repeal Obamacare or address rising health-care costs. They decided to announce their position to make the bill’s fate clear and allow senators to move on, Moran said.

“It could have been prolonged for days or weeks while no one said anything,” Moran said in an interview.

Moran, who oversaw the Senate Republicans’ 2014 election campaigns, concluded last week he wouldn’t vote for the latest version of the bill but “gave myself a weekend in Kansas to think about it,” he said.

Lee had helped draft an amendment, along with fellow conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would allow insurers to sell skimpy plans alongside more robust ones to lower costs. Cruz agreed to some changes in wording by GOP leaders, but Lee thought the new language allowed too many Obama-era regulations to remain in place.

After talking again, Moran and Lee agreed Monday night on a statement drafted earlier in the day. They issued their statement shortly after a White House dinner attended by seven GOP senators – all likely yes votes on the health care bill. Neither Lee nor Moran attended.

A Lee spokesman said the statement – and its timing – “had nothing to do with the White House dinner. It was not a reaction in any way.”

The statement was made public as soon as it was ready, the spokesman said.

Neither Trump nor McConnell received advance warning about the statement, although it’s likely that neither the president nor the Senate leader was completely surprised.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spent the weekend calling lawmakers, including Lee and at least seven other GOP senators, according to the administration. Trump talked politics, while Pence discussed policy.

Trump called Lee on Saturday, and Lee told the president he was leaning against the bill, for the reasons he later made public.

Lee told Utah’s KSL Newsradio that he had a great conversation with Trump, when he told the president his “consumer freedom” amendment had been weakened and that he wasn’t sure that he could support the bill.

“He was encouraging to me and said, you know, ‘Just see what changes you can make to it,’ ” Lee said.

Lee and McConnell did not talk over the weekend, but Lee spoke twice to Cornyn, R-Texas, the majority whip.

Trump, who frequently takes to Twitter to announce proposals or denounce opponents, was blindsided by, of all things, a tweet.

He told reporters Tuesday he was “very surprised when the two folks came out last night, because we thought they were in fairly good shape. But they did. And, you know, everybody has their own reason.”

Moran said while he remained committed to repealing the health care law, Congress needs to make a “fresh start” on writing a replacement bill in an “open legislative process.”

“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” he said, in a statement that followed the tweet.

In his own statement, Lee said the GOP bill does not repeal all the Obamacare tax increases and “doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations.”

Both explanations were issued on social media.

“Twitter is a nice medium to get your message out,” Lee’s spokesman said.

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