County eyes pair of transit questions
Pitkin County commissioners will consider two separate ballot questions about transportation at a public hearing later this month, although it remains anyone’s guess as to whether either will actually be around come November.
Commissioners agreed Tuesday to let the public comment on a proposal by Commissioner Patti Clapper that would pay for a mile-long segment of electric rail from the airport to Brush Creek Road, and another ballot proposal by Mick Ireland that would let voters select one of five different transportation options.
The Clapper question is a companion to the citizens’ initiative ballot in the city of Aspen, which asks voters to either fund rail or accept bus lanes as an alternative. It asks voters to authorize the county to borrow against its 0.5 percent sales tax that is dedicated to transportation.
Clapper said she was offering the ballot question because the city initiative, which would cover the cost of light rail from downtown Aspen to the airport, would not go into effect until the county agreed to pay for an extension to Brush Creek Road.
“This is coming before a valleywide plan is in place, before funding from the federal government is in place, before the voters have agreed to allow a busway across the Marolt Open Space – I think this is premature,” said Councilwoman Dorothea Farris.
Nevertheless she joined Ireland in approving the question at first reading so it can proceed to a public hearing on Aug. 25.
Ireland’s proposal doesn’t involve any money, instead giving voters five different choices. Under the senior commissioner’s plan, local governments would pursue whichever scores highest with the voters.
The first selection reads, “Valleywide rail system. If chosen, elected officials will bring to the voters a detailed plan including operating costs for such a system, the alignment to be used and the agreements with other valley governments necessary for governing and paying for such a system. Such system will be in conformity with existing state and federal approvals.”
The second selection is a dedicated busway; the third is a parkway across the Marolt property that consists of one lane in each direction separated by a median strip. The fourth selection is a four-lane highway without any transit restrictions, requiring local officials to reopen the environmental impact studies, lobby the federal government to exempt the county from air pollution standards and come up with a plan for paying for increased traffic and parking demands in Aspen.
The fifth selection in the Ireland ballot reads, “No Build. If chosen, elected officials will discontinue effort to make improvements of any sort to the present Entrance to Aspen highway alignment.”
Ireland pointed out that funding questions are pointless right now, because the state needs to build the Entrance to Aspen portion of the Highway 82 project before either rail or expanded bus service can be extended into town. The voters, he said, should have a chance to direct elected officials on how to proceed.
Both questions passed 3-0 on first reading.
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