Bus Rapid Transit system near top of state transportation priorities | AspenTimes.com

Bus Rapid Transit system near top of state transportation priorities

Janet Urquhart

A high-tech bus system for the Roaring Fork Valley is among the state’s top transportation priorities, the Colorado Transportation Commission has told Sen. Wayne Allard.

Allard recently agreed to put the proposed $128 million “Bus Rapid Transit” system on his list of projects for U.S. Senate consideration and inclusion in the reauthorization of the federal transportation bill.

Allard, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Transportation, looked to state transportation officials to prioritize that list of projects. The transportation commission obliged this week by approving a resolution that puts the BRT system among its high priorities for what the feds call “New Starts” funding.

“It’s really significant we’re on this list. It will make our job easier,” said Dan Blankenship, executive director of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. “That doesn’t mean we don’t still have a lot of work to do, but if we weren’t on this list, our job would be a lot more difficult than it’s going to be.”

RFTA is looking for $64 million in federal funding for the bus system; the balance would come from local funds and other sources.

While Allard has agreed to support the BRT in the Senate, Reps. Mark Udall and Scott McInnis are backing it in the House.

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Denver’s T-REX project, which is already under construction, was tabbed as Colorado’s highest priority for New Starts money by the Transportation Commission.

Seven other projects, including the BRT system, were ranked as a “high priority.” Three projects, including money for Interstate 70 in the mountain corridor, were given a lesser ranking. Other projects didn’t make the list at all, according to Blankenship.

RFTA has been working to get the BRT listed on 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 in the federal bill is the first step in actually obtaining the funding.

The BRT plan has been described as one that “thinks rail, but builds bus,” in that it would incorporate many elements that would someday work for valleywide rail, such as better transit stations, park-and-ride lots and feeder buses that serve a main trunk line.