Allard backs RFTA’s Bus Rapid Transit |

Allard backs RFTA’s Bus Rapid Transit

Aspen Times staff report

Another member of Colorado’s congressional delegation has taken action in support of a proposed high-tech bus system in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The $128 million bus system being proposed by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is called “Bus Rapid Transit” and is designed to work as a sophisticated bus system before perhaps growing into a rail system.

RFTA got word this week that Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado has put the RFTA Bus Rapid Transit project on his list of projects for Senate consideration for inclusion in the reauthorization of the federal transportation bill.

Last month, congressmen Scott McInnis and Mark Udall both submitted the BRT project on the house side of the process, which was critical to beginning the funding process for the project.

“The BRT project proposed by RFTA would have significant effects on access to transportation throughout the Roaring Fork Valley,” McInnis said in a recent letter to a Basalt Town Council member. “In connecting a 70-mile, three-county region, these buses will open a whole new section of the valley to commerce, tourism and increased job access.”

Udall had similar praise in a letter he wrote to the transportation committee.

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“The proposed BRT system for this area would involve a unique and innovative approach that would include service to surrounding communities as well as tourist and commuter traffic,” Udall wrote.

RFTA is looking for $64 million in federal funding for the project. The balance of the funds would come from local and other sources.

Allard submitted the BRT proposal to the Senate Banking Committee, which is responsible for the transit component of the federal transportation bill in the Senate. April 2 was the date that all transit proposals were due to the Senate Banking Committee.

“We are extremely pleased that Senator Allard has agreed to submit this project,” said Tony Hershey, a RFTA board member and a member of the Aspen City Council. “This is very good news.”

Hershey, along with Dan Richardson, a council member from Glenwood Springs, and several RFTA staffers, traveled to Washington, D.C., in February to seek congressional support.

RFTA is working to get the Roaring Fork BRT project listed in the federal transportation bill that will be written this year. The current bill expires Sept. 30, and the next bill will be a road map of funding for transportation projects over the next six years.

Inclusion on the list will give RFTA permission, over the next six years, to seek the actual funding. Inclusion on the list is an essential step for getting federal funding; however, many additional steps remain.

The Roaring Fork BRT project includes intermodal transit centers in each community in the Roaring Fork Valley; “Intelligent Transportation System” components to give priority to transit and speed travel times; an automated fare system to speed boarding and reduce operating costs; a fleet of alternative fuel buses; local feeder routes to speed travel times on the trunk line; and park-and-ride lots.

RFTA is the state’s first rural, multi-jurisdictional transit authority, formed in 2000 using the state’s rural transportation authority act. RFTA currently has per capita ridership more than double that of Denver’s RTD system.