The SMART Transportation Division Colorado State Legislative Board announced that a railroad safety bill it supports received a key committee endorsement on October 3 and looks likely to be considered in the state Legislature’s 2024 session.

By a 14–6 vote, the state’s Joint Transportation Legislation Review Committee approved of the measure, which limits train lengths to 8,500 feet and sets placement of trackside detectors to mirror what is proposed in the Railway Safety Act introduced after the East Palestine, Ohio, disaster in February 2023. The legislation also would prohibit carriers from blocking rail crossings for longer than 10 minutes.

According to Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith, the Ohio derailment was the impetus for some of the legislators to take a hard look at rail safety — and a couple of other incidents closer to home have kept the attention on the railroad.

“A military train from Fort Carson derailed right across from the El Paso County Jail, in Colorado Springs,” Smith said. “So that drew a lot of media attention, a lot of media spotlight.”

Incidents such as the Colorado Springs derailment and a second, more recent incident in Pueblo, Colorado, combined with members’ active outreach, made the commonsense efforts advocated by SMART-TD hard to ignore — even for people who had previously aligned with the carriers.

Smith said that state Rep. Ty Winter had adamantly refused to support rail safety legislation in the 2023 session and was a “no” for several months leading up to the vote in early October, but changed his mind in a statement to the review committee.

“I firmly believe the pressure that Rep. Winter received from the railroad workers that live and work in the 47th House District caused a significant change to his previous stance,” Smith said. “We will thank Rep. Winter for his support and continue to ensure that he supports rail safety legislation. The lobbyists of both railroads were visibly shocked by Winter’s statement and vote.”

A great deal of work on the legislation has been done, but there’s more ahead.

“We still have many steps to go before it gets to the governor’s desk for signature,” Smith noted.

But the committee endorsement with bipartisan support and 14 cosponsors — even before introduction before the full Legislature in 2024 — give it a leg up over legislation starting from scratch.

Smith also said that the legislation remains subject to amendment, especially at the encouragement of the railroad carriers, to soften the protections the bill advocates.

“I anticipate that happening,” he cautioned.

Smith and the Colorado State Legislative Board have already created a coalition of other unions, public safety and environmental groups to help raise awareness in the Legislature for a successful outcome that mirrors the winning two-person crew effort in the state in 2019.

“We will continue to educate legislators on railroad safety and lobby them to support the bill for the 2024 session,” Smith concluded.

A recent poll conducted by RBI Strategies & Research in conjunction with Magellan Strategies found that 61% of those surveyed would support a sales tax increase to fund a passenger rail service project along Colorado’s Front Range.
Although a sales tax increase is supported at this time, an article in The Colorado Sun said that support for the sales tax increase will likely go down once voters are told how much of an increase will be required to fund the $5 billion project, which would establish a passenger train route to operate from Fort Collins to Pueblo, Colo.
Click here to read the full survey results.
Click here to read more from The Colorado Sun.

Two-person freight crew safety legislation is one step closer to becoming law in Colorado with the state Senate’s passage of House Bill 1034 (H.B. 1034).
After its 19-15 passage on Feb. 25 in the Senate, the bill is on the desk of Democratic Gov. Jared Polis for consideration after a successful March 4 reconciliation vote in the House.
Polis has three options — signing the bill to make it state law, vetoing the bill or not signing the bill. If he chooses not to sign the bill, it will then become law after 10 days of inaction.
“We need to let the governor know that this is a grassroots effort with the safety of the public in mind,” Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith said.
Through the process, members in the state, as well as their families and friends, have been instrumental in supporting the efforts of the Colorado State Legislative Board to get the two-person crew bill through the Legislature and onto the governor’s desk.
Help is needed one more time for that final push. Members, their families and friends in Colorado all can voice their support for the legislation by following the link below:
Show your support for the Colorado two-person crew bill.
Smith said that he is optimistic that Polis, who as a U.S. representative was a co-sponsor of the 2017 Safe Freight Act legislation, will support the bill once he hears from SMART members, their families and anyone else in the state who is concerned about rail safety.
H.B. 1034 first passed the Colorado House on Feb. 5 by a 39-23 vote.

Amtrak has informed federal, state and local officials along the route of the daily Chicago-to-Los Angeles Southwest Chief that it will provide matching funds to enable a federal grant to be awarded for safety and reliability upgrades in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, the carrier said in a news release Feb. 27.
The funds available to upgrade the route came after Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed the FY2019 Appropriations Act, which included funding for Amtrak and intercity passenger rail, earlier in the month.
The legislation set aside at least $50 million of its National Network grant for improvements to the Southwest Chief route. Amtrak is using $3 million of these funds to match a $16 million grant successfully sought by these states, counties and cities and awarded to Colfax County, N.M. The grant and matching funds from the partners will result in an investment of more than $26 million in preserving the daily route from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Amtrak and BNSF Railway began community discussions regarding safety and other infrastructure improvements in 2011. Since then, more than $80 million has been committed from U.S. Department of Transportation grant programs, state and local governments, Amtrak and BNSF.
As reported in prior articles published on the SMART Transportation Division website and in the SMART TD News, Amtrak has been considering “bus bridges” on portions of the route or the potential discontinuation of the route altogether.
“We’re glad it’s getting funds to go through Colorado,” said Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith. “We’re supportive of all measures to continuing the Chief’s service through our state.”
Amtrak said in the release that it will use the newly available federal capital funding to continue needed work on the next route segment in New Mexico.
The carrier said in its release it is working on a long-term financial plan with state and local partners to address the unique challenges of the Southwest Chief route, particularly where Amtrak is the only user of BNSF tracks in Colorado and New Mexico.


State Legislative Director Carl Smith is urging all members from Colorado to contact their state representatives and ask them to support the state’s two-person crew bill, H.B. 1034. Smith says that members, their families and friends are encouraged to visit to contact their legislators about supporting this bill.
Better yet, union members can come out in person to express their support, Smith said.
The bill, which was introduced Jan. 4 by state Reps. Tom Sullivan and Daneya Esgar, is set to be heard by the House Transportation Committee at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30 at the Colorado State Capitol, 200 East Colfax, Denver.
“We will meet in the basement at 11:30 a.m.,” Smith said. “You and everyone you know that cares about railroad safety must contact your state legislator by phone, letter or email before this date to tell them to support H.B. 1034. We need everyone! You, your family, your friends and neighbors.
“It will take all of us.”
Click here to contact your legislators.
Click here to view the members that sit on Colo. House Transportation Committee.
On Jan. 9, the Colorado State Legislative Board released the results of a survey that showed strong support among Coloradans for a law requiring two-person crews. The survey, conducted Jan. 2 – Jan. 5, 2019, asked 550 random Colorado residents older than 18 using both cell phones and landlines about issues centered around railroad safety. The results showed that 77 percent of Coloradans said that, given the chance, they would vote in favor of a two-person crew law.
“More than three of four respondents to this poll understand the safety benefits of having more than one person operating a freight train. Safety is a top priority for them and requiring all trains in the state to be operated by a crew of at least two people, no exceptions, makes perfect sense,” Smith said in a press release about the survey results.
To keep the state’s rails safe, legislators need to hear about the importance of keeping two people operating freight trains. Now is your chance to make your voice heard!

SMART Transportation Division Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith reports that legislators in his state are again considering a Right to Work For Less bill.
This is the second time in two years that politicians are attempting to undermine the right to union representation in that state, Smith said. The bill, this time known as HB18-1030 “Prohibit Discrimination Labor Union Participation,” is scheduled to be heard in the Colorado House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24.
“Last year, we were able to provide excellent testimony and pack the room to defeat this bad legislation and send a strong statement on our thoughts about the bill,” Smith said.
Smith again asks members to unite to provide a strong turnout in opposition to this attack and is seeking SMART TD members in his state to testify before the committee in Denver.
To sign up, visit this link: or email Smith at
The goal of this type of legislation ultimately is to reduce your wages – to take money out of your pocket and to further line the pocketbooks of businesses at your expense. Right to Work For Less bills are falsely portrayed by their corporate-friendly backers as anti-discriminatory or as preserving individual rights. In reality, this kind of legislation is a thinly-veiled attempt to bust unions, to jeopardize union members’ livelihoods by making workplaces more dangerous and to maximize business profits by paying you less.
In 2008, Colorado voters were on our side and overwhelmingly rejected a ballot initiative that tried to install Right to Work For Less legislation in the state.
But since then, Smith said, misguided anti-union legislators have continued to introduce Right To Work For Less bills.
In this latest attempt, Colorado Rep. Justin Everett and state Sen. Tim Neville, both Republicans, are the primary sponsors. Everett’s office phone number is 303-866-2927. Neville’s is 303-866-4873.
Ten additional representatives and two additional senators also are signed on as sponsors of HB18-1030.
The representatives are Perry Buck, Stephen Humphrey, Timothy Leonard, Kimmi Lewis, Patrick Neville, Kim Ransom, Lori Saine, Kevin Van Winkle, Dave Williams and Cole Wist.
The senators are Chris Holbert and Vicki Marble.
Once we have come together to crush this legislative attack on our union and others, SMART TD members in Colorado are encouraged to remember this betrayal and to vote accordingly the next time they see these politicians’ names on the ballot.

Joanne Mary Johnson, 65, the wife of former Colorado State Legislative Director Rick Johnson, died September 8, 2015. Joanne is survived by her husband, brothers Dan and Bob Badger, and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by brother David Badger. 

A memorial service will be held Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 11 a.m. at Horan & McConaty funeral home, 3101 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Lakewood, CO 80227.

Rick has been a member of Local 202 (Denver) since June of 1975 and has held many positions within the union until his retirement in September of 2012.

Click here to view Joanne’s obituary and to leave condolences for the family.


Funding to save the Southwest Chief did not make it into the budget proposed by the Colorado legislature this week, Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith reports.

“We must now seek support from Gov. Hickenlooper and the Joint Budget Committee, which will review appropriation requests beyond the current proposed budget,” Smith said. “We need to get their attention and approval as soon as possible. Please call the governor and the following legislators and ask them to fund the Southwest Chief Commission.

“This train is essential to Colorado’s transportation system,” Smith said. “You might also remind Gov. Hickenlooper that he committed to finding funding for the train at the bill signing last year.”

Hickenlooper’s office phone number is (303) 866-2471.

For funding to pass, the bill needs the support of the following members from the state’s Joint Budget Committee:





Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith asks that all members from the state call or email key legislators to pass the bill funding Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

“A bill to save the Southwest Chief will be heading to the Colorado Legislature’s Senate Appropriations Committee very soon. We need you to contact key legislators today to help save Amtrak service in Colorado,” Smith said.

“As you may know, SMART Transportation Division and our partners have been working over the past several years to save passenger rail in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. After a lot of hard work, we now have a bill that gets the fight to preserve Amtrak’s Southwest Chief over the line in Colorado. State Sens. Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) and Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) have introduced Senate Bill 176, a bill that will fund the remaining portion of Colorado’s share of capital costs to save Amtrak for Colorado’s passengers. The bill was endorsed by the Transportation Committee last month, but now it needs to pass the Senate Appropriations Committee before it can reach the full State Senate.

“Your voice will make the difference! Following negotiations, advocates for rail service have managed to cut Colorado’s total share of costs to rehabilitate the Southwest Chief’s tracks from $40 million to $8.9 million. This is a huge victory for passengers, and it only happened because of the federal grant that Southeastern Colorado communities successfully applied for in 2014 in collaboration with Kansas, Amtrak, and BNSF Railway.

“Please take a moment today and contact the following senators via email and phone (it’s fine to leave a message):

What we need you to say:

“Personalize your message, but make sure to clearly ask for their support of SB-176 in the Senate Appropriations Committee. And remember: always be respectful.

“Here are a few other points that you can make to the senators about why the Southwest Chief is so important to the people of Colorado:

  • The cost has gone done almost 80 percent because of successful negotiations between the state and other stakeholders;
  • No less than 12 local communities in Southeastern Colorado have already stepped up and paid their share to keep the train running;
  • We need to support rural Colorado;
  • Amtrak, BNSF Railway, and the state of Kansas have already spent millions on this project-it’s Colorado’s turn to show our support.”

Carl Smith

Armed with polling data obtained by SMART?Transportation Division?political consultant Dean Mitchell of DFM?Research, Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith and Assistant Legislative Director Charlie Skidmore Sept. 14 presented community leaders from Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico, convened in Pueblo, with data showing large support for funding of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief service.

“With the knowledge that state and local politicians from Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico would be attending this event, Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo and myself had discussions with Dean Mitchell at the Anaheim regional meeting about doing a survey to show the politicians from our respective states the support the public has for Amtrak, even in the most conservative districts,” Smith said.

The surveys were conducted in Colorado’s 4th District and Kansas’ 1st and 2nd Districts, home to traditionally conservative voters between September 3 and September 10. About 800 adults responded to the survey, 400 in Colorado and 200 in each of the Kansas districts polled.

The survey found that people had a favorable view of Amtrak and high speed rail, with 44 percent of people polled stating that passenger service should increase and 40 percent stating that it should remain the same. Only four percent of those polled stated that the service should be eliminated, while 12 percent were unsure of what should happen.

Seventy-one percent of those interviewed said they would support additional service in the cities of Denver and Kansas City.

Forty-five percent of those polled said that their state governments should provide some funding for Amtrak and 49 percent were in favor of keeping the current levels of government funding. Of the 45 percent that said their state should contribute to the funding of Amtrak, 83 percent stated that they supported their states providing up to one third of one percent of the state transportation budget to keep daily Amtrak service.

“The survey was well worth the expense and will be a valuable tool for the state directors of Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico to present to state legislatures and governors when discussing funding for Southwest Chief service,”?Smith said.

Smith also presented the findings to attendees at the Labor Initiative of the Colorado Democratic Party event held Sept. 18.

Click here to view all results from the survey.