Don’t hold up trail |

Don’t hold up trail

Dear Editor:Let me preface this letter by saying that I would love to see a valleywide light-rail system, but I could hardly contain my dismay when I read the articles related to the Aspen-to-Glenwood trail in Tuesday’s paper. It seems like the dream of a valleywide trail has been knocked out by a one-two punch. First, Aspen City Council comes out in opposition to building the trail on the rail bed (and not selling the tracks) and second, RFTA discovers that the trail is going to cost (gasp!) more than they anticipated and may not (read: certainly not) get completed by 2010, as promised.Although rail proponent Rachel Richards admits that a valleywide passenger rail system is probably “decades and decades” away, she still clings to the absurd notion that building a trail on the existing rail bed in the interim will put up a roadblock to ever bringing back that dream of rail.There are several reasons why this simply cannot be true. First, let’s admit to ourselves that the rail bed and rails that are in place today would most likely not be used for a future light-rail system; they are not designed for modern high-speed light-rail, the ties are too old and the rails would need to be re-set and/or replaced anyway. Second, I cannot for the life of me see why the presence of a trail on the existing rail bed would prohibit the construction of a light-rail system. A valleywide light-rail system would probably cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars, moving the trail out of the way of a rail alignment would most likely be less than 1 percent of this total cost. If it is political outcry from trail users that we are afraid of, the obvious solution would be to realign the trail as phase one of the light-rail project, prior to constructing the railway. RFTA obviously needs as much funding from whatever sources to get the trail completed (anonymous donor, anyone?). Even though people have written letters to the contrary, we need a continuous valleywide trail. I would like to remind people that currently there is no safe way to travel between Glenwood and Aspen by bike; you have to ride on Highway 82, back roads (where a cyclist was hit by a car this winter; thankfully he survived) and bits and pieces of trail. The benefits to the community of a valleywide trail are too numerous to list, but suffice it to say, if you build it, they will come. If RFTA needs to cut costs in the short term by building the trail where easiest (rail bed), then so be it.Come on! Let RFTA sell the existing rail, complete the trail (now!) and move the trail out of the way when (if) light rail is actually going to get built. Don’t let the trail be held hostage to a dream that is “decades and decades” away.Louis WilsherCarbondale

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