Downvalley out of loop on valley transit debate?
The downvalley mayors might jump into Aspen’s campaign fray over transit proposals, but not necessarily as cheerleaders for a train.
The mayors of Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, along with Snowmass Village, have been asked by Aspen Mayor Rachel Richards to attend a forum tentatively set Oct. 6 at the Wheeler Opera House, according to Carbondale Mayor Randy Vanderhurst.
That will be during the thick of a campaign for the November election, which features five transit-related questions on the city of Aspen ballot. The primary questions ask voters if they would support funding construction of a light-rail system between Aspen and the airport, and support a dedicated busway from Buttermilk to Aspen.
Richards is a rail supporter, but it remains to be seen what position the other mayors would take.
Vanderhurst said he doubts he will be able to express support for rail as Carbondale’s representative.
“I don’t think that’s possible because I don’t know what Carbondale’s stance is – there are so many divergent views,” he said. “I can tell you Carbondale right now is split. It’s the same arguments it was two or three years ago.”
So why participate in a forum? Vanderhurst said there is some concern among downvalley residents that Aspen is settling the fate of the valley’s transportation problems on its own. The forum might be a chance, albeit a limited one, for downvalley interests to be represented.
“Aspen in some ways is voting on it without looking at it as a regional problem,” said Vanderhurst.
The concern that Aspen voters will settle an issue of valleywide importance was also expressed Tuesday night by Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens. He told his board about the forum and suggested that the council get involved before the election.
Stevens said Basalt and the other downvalley towns should try to influence a decision “to do the right thing – whatever that might be, bus or rail.”
Stevens noted that the alternative to rail – a RFTA bus system “on steroids” – was “not palatable” for Basalt. A beefed-up bus system is forecast to eventually generate 381 bus trips per day through Basalt, either on Highway 82 or through town.
Stevens said doing the right thing would also mean transportation planners couldn’t turn Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt into big parking lots for the benefit of Aspen.
“We’ve all said we’re not going to allow that to happen to our towns,” he said.
He explained Wednesday that he sees the mayors’ forum as a way to get vital information out to Aspen voters, including information about how the valley will be affected by a “no-build” alternative.
Carbondale’s Vanderhurst said a certain segment of his constituency doesn’t care how the transit issues are resolved. They are resigned to leave to seek a town that’s “like Carbondale was 20 years ago.”
“It’s not `how can I solve the transportation problem’, it’s `how do I get out of here,’ ” Vanderhurst said.
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