On the Trail: RFTA trail in the money | AspenTimes.com

On the Trail: RFTA trail in the money

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs correspondent

An additional $1 million in federal trail funding will help pay to complete the last leg of a 36-mile route from Aspen to Carbondale, and may speed up the start of work near Glenwood Springs.U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, said Friday that a spending bill that passed in the House of Representatives included the funding. The bill is expected to pass the Senate soon and then head to President Bush for his signature.The money will go toward completing a four-mile stretch of the Rio Grande Trail from Catherine Store Road to Hooks Lane between Carbondale and Basalt next year.The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is building the trail, which the RFTA board hopes to have running from Glenwood Springs to Aspen by 2010.RFTA Executive Director Dan Blankenship said the funding request survived a competitive congressional appropriation process.RFTA has about $7.5 million in trail work remaining and had about $5 million in funding identified before the additional $1 million was secured. “If we were going to get it done on that timetable, we needed to obtain revenue from other sources, so this $1 million that has been appropriated will bring us closer to that goal.”It also should let RFTA begin trail work between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale in 2006, rather than 2007 as had been planned. RFTA first wants to focus on building a trail between the Buffalo Valley Inn area and the turnoff to the Westbank subdivision. Currently, the only way for nonmotorists to travel that section is via Highway 82.Before work can begin, however, RFTA has to decide whether to agree to a proposal to let an excursion train operate between Glenwood Springs and Orrison Distributing.The trail is being built on the old Rio Grande rail corridor. RFTA estimates that if it can’t tear up the tracks south of Glenwood Springs, it would cost an extra $850,000 to build the trail next to the tracks in narrow pinch points along the rail corridor.The RFTA board probably will make a decision on the train in January or February, Blankenship said.

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