End of the line for trolleys?
The dream of trolley service in Aspen may have reached the end of the line.
The Aspen City Council adopted a 2001 budget totaling $64 million Monday, but it does not include $40,000 in matching funds to reanalyze the feasibility and cost of putting a trolley line into service in town.
“I’m ready to cut bait,” said Mayor Rachel Richards. “There has just never been a community upwelling of support for this [trolley service].
“I think it’s time to say `no’ on this,” she said.
Councilmen Tony Hershey and Tom McCabe joined her in refusing to spend any more money on the trolley issue.
“To throw in another $40,000 seems like a waste of money,” Hershey said.
Another study would only tell the city what it already knows, McCabe agreed.
“They’re going to tell us the restoration would be expensive, the infrastructure would be expensive,” he said. “I can’t support the trolleys. I just think it would cost us way too much money.”
McCabe said he doubts Aspen would support trolleys, given the noise of wheels on a steel rail and the aesthetics of overhead wires to power them.
Hershey said he might be willing to support electric buses that look like old-fashioned trolley cars.
The city owns six historic trolley cars that have been rotting away since the late 1970s. They were imported from Lisbon by a group of locals, organized as the Aspen Street Railway Co., who envisioned the cars moving along a set of tracks to provide a unique form of in-town mass transit.
Councilman Terry Paulson, who has voiced support for the group’s vision, urged the council to at least earmark the $40,000 in next year’s budget, in the event the railway group can come up with matching funds.
Most of all, Paulson said, he’d like to find out what the community thinks about the trolleys. He suggested a ballot measure to find out.
“What we don’t know is what the value of the trolleys is to the community,” he said. “To me, that would be more important to put it to rest one way or the other.”
Councilman Jim Markalunas sided with Paulson, but the council majority prevailed.
What the city should do with the trolley cars, added Richards, is a topic the council needs to tackle.
One of the cars is now deteriorating at the county dump. The other five are rotting into the ground at Cozy Point Ranch.
“What is a disservice it is to just let them sit out there and rot,” Markalunas said. “I think that’s what the real waste is.”
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