City OKs November trolley question |

City OKs November trolley question

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

After quibbling one last time over a proposed trolley system in Aspen, the City Council voted 4-1 on Monday to put the issue before voters.

A ballot question outlining the Aspen Street Railway Company’s responsibility for raising $5.5 million to build the system will go to voters on Nov. 5.

The council, which has been on the verge of giving its six historic trolley cars away twice in the past year or so, only begrudgingly agreed to consider a ballot measure when railway group members pleaded with them to let voters determine the fate of the cars. The wording of a question that satisfied both the council and the railway group has been months in the making.

Last night, when the council again began debating details of the system and where the tracks should run, Mayor Helen Klanderud suggested the council “bite the bullet.”

Councilman Tom McCabe voted against the question because the proposed trolley line won’t run the entire route currently served by the Galena Street Shuttle. The trolleys will run from Rubey Park down Galena Street, loop around Rio Grande Park and end in the vicinity of the post office. The Galena Street Shuttle also serves the Hunter Creek area.

McCabe wanted some assurance that the trolley line would be expanded to Hunter Creek.

“Implicit in this whole thing is it’s stage one if it works,” said Councilman Tim Semrau.

“Who’s going to pay for the phasing after this first phase?” Klanderud said. “This started out as a very simple up and down Galena. Now we’ve got it going all over town. I don’t even know if I want it to go to Hunter Creek. I don’t know if it makes sense.

“Either we decide we’re going to narrow this down a bit and bite the bullet and put it on the ballot or we don’t.”

“I think it’s time we either go along with it or not,” Semrau agreed.

The ballot measure will also ask voters if the city should keep the cars and continue to cooperate with the railway company to refurbish the trolleys and build the system.

It contains a number of conditions, including that the system be built at no public expense, use no overhead wires and have on-board, self-contained power. The city agrees to provide land for a trolley barn near the post office and assume the costs of operating the system once it’s built.

The question sets forth three dates by which the group must meet various thresholds. The system must be complete by Oct. 31, 2008.

One of the cars is being cosmetically restored for display somewhere in town. The council will debate at what public spot it might be willing to park a trolley when it meets for a work session today.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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