Feds to RFTA: The check is in the mail | AspenTimes.com

Feds to RFTA: The check is in the mail

Funding for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s expansion of its bus system will be granted within two weeks, according to the Federal Transit Administration.

The bus agency will receive $24.163 million, the full amount sought in its grant application for fiscal year 2011, confirmed Brian Farber, FTA administrator for Communications and Congressional Affairs. RFTA received a federal grant for $810,000 last year for engineering for the project. Over the two years, it will receive just shy of $25 million to buy additional buses, construct new platforms and bus stations, expand or develop new park-and-rides, and invest in high-tech fleet management systems to improve its efficiency. RFTA’s members approved a sales tax increase to provide an additional $21 million in revenues for the project, known as VelociRFTA.

“The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will be able to immediately receive a federal grant to put people to work on the VelociRFTA project once the Federal Transit Administration officially announces the funding in the Federal Register in the next week or two,” Farber said.

The federal government is required to publish its apportionment notices and decisions in the register.

Once that publication is fulfilled, RFTA must take one more step, essentially setting up an account with the FTA’s Transportation Electronic Award Management system, according to RFTA Chief Executive Office Dan Blankenship.

Blankenship has been assuring RFTA’s board of directors for about six months that he had little doubt that the federal grant would be awarded. He said it was just a question of timing.

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The FTA is a “partner” that demonstrated it supported expansion of one of the most successful rural transportation systems in the country, Blankenship said. “They can be trusted to help us deliver this project,” he said.

FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff announced in Boston Monday that projects that were recommended for approval under a specific agency program would receive funding. He didn’t specifically name RFTA’s project, but Farber confirmed RFTA is under the umbrella Rogoff identified.

Part of Colorado Congressional delegation – Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet as well as Rep. Jared Polis – wrote to Rugoff last month urging a speedy release of the funds. Udall said in a statement released Monday he was glad to help.

“I was proud to fight for the Roaring Fork Valley in Washington,” Udall’s statement said. “VelociRFTA is a critical investment in the Roaring Fork Valley’s economy. It will bring jobs to the region, cut down on traffic jams, and create a more efficient way to get workers and visitors from town to town.”

Blankenship said the release of the funds will help advance the project, even if a significant amount of construction isn’t undertaken this season. RFTA will be able to: select a contractor after opening a bidding process; the contractor will be able to start staging for next season; some contracts will be executed, like a $2.885 million Intelligent Transportation System and the ordering of pre-fabricated bus shelters.

The awarding of the grant will help RFTA meet its goal of completing the project by September 2013, Blankenship said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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