Eagle, Roaring Fork bus routes to connect? | AspenTimes.com

Eagle, Roaring Fork bus routes to connect?

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen CO, Colrado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Eagle County Transit systems are looking at possibility connecting the two regional bus services.

Both agencies are set to begin looking for consultants to produce a RFTA-ECO Connection Feasibility Study, which will look into the prospect of linking the two regional bus services through Glenwood Canyon.

RFTA has “generously offered to take the lead” to seek out consultants to conduct the feasibility study, said David Johnson, transit planner for ECO.

RFTA provides bus service up and down the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys, from Aspen to Rifle. ECO provides service in Eagle County to towns including Gypsum, Eagle, Edwards, Avon, Vail, Minturn and Leadville.

Johnson said the goal of the study is to help both RFTA and ECO forecast the projected ridership if the two regional services were to connect their routes through Glenwood Canyon and “what that services may look like.”

Jason White, assistant planner for RFTA, there has been talk among residents, elected officials and staff of the two agencies about making a seamless connection between the two regional systems.

“RFTA and ECO do a great job of servicing their systems, but no one has tried to connect the 19-mile gap through Glenwood Canyon,” White said. “It makes sense why no one has really touched that because it can be kind of dangerous in the winter and the travel time is slower.”

White said a potential ECO-RFTA connection could be valuable because there are several public service entities on either side of Glenwood Canyon that could be accessed. He cited the Amtrak and Greyhound stations in Glenwood Springs and the Eagle County Airport, which is on the other side of the canyon.

“This feasibility study will hopefully iron out a lot of these operational questions about who will the operator be. Will it be ECO, will it be RFTA, will it be the private sector?” White said.

The chosen consultant will also look at where the connection happen, he said.

“Will it be that we reach out to Dotsero to connect with ECO or do they reach out to Glenwood Springs to connect with us?” White said.

White said two agencies are also looking for the consultants to come up with some proposed schedules and route maps. The study will also look at potential costs.

“That will be a critical issue,” Johnson said.

An integral reason why the agencies are looking into connecting the two regional bus services is because of the need to provide transportation for workers in the Roaring Fork Valley and Eagle County, Johnson said.

ECO and RFTA have been discussing the possibility of connecting services on and off again for the last five years. The effort to analyze a possible connection between the services gained a resurgence after the Colorado Department of Transportation recently wanted RFTA and ECO to take another look at increasing their “connectivity,” Johnson said.

“They had some planning funds available and things like this were their priorities,” Johnson said. “They invited us to submit a grant for planning funds.”

The agencies received the federal grant, which is administered by CDOT and will pay for 80 percent of the feasibility study. The remainder will be paid for by RFTA and ECO. The grant’s contribution to the study is about $24,000, White said.

A total cost for the feasibility study is estimated to be about $30,000, White said.