County asks Allard staffers for Entrance to Aspen assistance |

County asks Allard staffers for Entrance to Aspen assistance

Allyn Harvey

Two of U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard’s staff promised yesterday to take up some of Pitkin County’s most pressing transportation and housing problems with the movers and shakers in Denver and Washington, D.C.

By the time Peter Jacobson and Shane Henry left the county courthouse, they had promised to talk to Colorado Department of Transportation director Tom Norton about expediting the yet-to-be funded Entrance to Aspen project. They said they would find out whether it makes economic sense for the Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority to complete its corridor investment study.

They also agreed to talk to their boss about easing the way for the U.S. Forest Service to relocate its headquarters downvalley and sell its property at the corner of Seventh and Main to the Aspen/Pitkin County Affordable Housing Program.

For the most part, though, the discussion focused on transportation in general and rail in particular.

The Pitkin County Commissioners said it would be a long time before the valley tapped the federal government for rail funding, and inquired instead about the senator’s support for bus funding. Jacobson promised to look into funding options for buses.

The admission that rail was a distant reality, at best, by politicians from the upper valley was news to the senator’s top man in Colorado.

“Senator Allard was beginning to be worried that he had been misled,” Jacobson said. “It appeared to him that the elected officials had done a great job coming up with the funding and political unity among themselves needed for rail, but perhaps before there was the political will from the people.”

He agreed to check into the shelf life of the CIS, the detailed plan for building a commuter train from Glenwood Springs to Aspen. Several million more dollars are needed to finish the study, which nonetheless is nearing completion. But the commissioners are worried that it may not be valid if the valley doesn’t get around to building rail for 15 or 20 years.

Jacobson said he would bring up possible funding options for the Entrance to Aspen portion of Highway 82 with CDOT’s Norton. CDOT has agreed to pay for widening the highway up to the Maroon Creek bridge, but has no plans to complete the last mile and a half into downtown Aspen.

And earlier in the day, at a meeting with county and Forest Service representatives, Jacobson said he saw no problems with the ongoing maneuvers to relocate the Pitkin County headquarters of the White River National Forest. White River officials are hoping to keep the proceeds from the sale of their current headquarters to pay for a new building at Aspen Mass.

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