Committee OKs $24M for RFTA’s Bus Rapid Transit project | AspenTimes.com

Committee OKs $24M for RFTA’s Bus Rapid Transit project

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO Colorado

Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesPassengers board a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus in El Jebel that was 10 minutes late in arriving Friday evening. RFTA's BRT will give passengers real-time information regarding the expected arrival of the bus.

U.S. Congressman John Salazar announced Friday that the House Appropriations Committee approved $24,163,000 for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. The bill now awaits a vote on the House floor.

The funding is intended to implement Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, improvements along Highway 82 between Aspen and Glenwood Springs.

According to a statement from Salazar’s office, the BRT project will create 231 jobs over a two-year period; the project also will create and maintain an estimated 72 jobs associated with ongoing operations. In nine years, there could be an estimated 149 new jobs supported by ongoing operations due to a combination of direct employment and indirect/induced employment.

According to the 2003 Corridor Investment Study, Highway 82 is Colorado’s most congested rural highway with summer average daily traffic exceeding 28,000 in some locations. Despite a half-billion dollars in safety and capacity improvements over the past 15 years, it is anticipated that travel demand will at some point exceed highway capacity once again.

The BRT project is the most economical and environmentally friendly transportation solution for the corridor, according to the statement released Friday by Salazar.

“The reason I fought to get on the Appropriations Committee was so that I could fight to fund projects that will help my constituents. I am excited that we are now able to appropriate money to create hundreds of jobs and improve the mass transit system in the Roaring Fork Valley,” he said. “Over the years RFTA has continued to lead the charge in providing a safe, reliable and affordable mass transit system that is used by tourists and locals as an alternative to automobile congestion. Some politicians are critical of federal funding, but I would like to see them come to the Roaring Fork Valley and tell the people they don’t deserve to have the benefit of these jobs or a less expensive transportation option.”

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Dan Blankenship, CEO of RFTA, was similarly pleased with Friday’s announcement.

“The inclusion of RFTA’s BRT project in the House Appropriations Committee mark is a significant achievement and a crucial step toward obtaining Federal Transit Administration Very Small Starts funding that will substantially improve transit service in the Roaring Fork Valley,” he said in a prepared statement. “When enacted, the $24 million appropriated for the project, along with $15 million in local funding, will enable RFTA to begin acquiring right of way, Real-time passenger information equipment, and low-floor buses needed for BRT. It will also allow RFTA to begin constructing BRT stations and installing transit priority measures that will reduce travel times for BRT vehicles.

“RFTA has been planning its BRT project for nearly10 years and it is extremely exciting that the superior quality, convenience, and efficiency that the VelociRFTA BRT service can offer the region are on the verge of becoming a reality.”

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