Evans says the RTA is really all about rail
The Common Sense Alliance and its spokesman, Jeffrey Evaans, are on familiar ground this election as they continue their campaign against the proposal to form an RTA.
Evans and the CSA have opposed just about every transportation question put to voters by elected officials in the last four years.
Most of the ballot questions that the CSA has opposed had to do with proposals for a light rail system. That makes this election a little different because the RTA, according to its backers, is about buses.
Unless, of course, you ask Evans.
“The whole thing is obviously a subterfuge to build rail” between Glenwood and Aspen, he said, because it creates exactly what is needed to qualify for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal transportation funding.
And Evans also believes the $800,000 budget shortfall being predicted for RFTA, which the valley’s bus agency hopes to solve with money from the RTA, could easily be fixed with cash already in the county’s coffers.
Advertisements in local newspapers paid for by the CSA focus sharply on the rail question. One reprints an excerpt from a letter on the subject of rail funding from an official with the Federal Transit Administration to a representative of the Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority, the multi-government agency that owns the railroad right of way between Glenwood Springs and Aspen.
“We’ve never taken the position that a RTA must be in place, only that there is a sufficient and stable source of funding to build, maintain, and operate any project we’d participate in and a public body with authority to actually construct and operate in every jurisdiction in question,” the letter says.
“None of this is currently in place, so a RTA is certainly the best candidate to do the job, assuming the charter for the RTA makes it big enough and bad enough. If it’s sufficiently weakened to help you get it past the voters, it doesn’t help you much.”
Evans also cites a clause in the intergovernmental agreement that lays the foundation for the RTA as evidence of a secret plan to build rail. It requires the RTA to complete the rail studies currently being conducted by RFRHA, which will fold into the RTA if it passes.
“The only point to that is if they’re intending to get in line for the 2004 round of transportation funding from the federal government,” he said.
Evans also opposes the RTA plan because he believes there is plenty of money available to expand RFTA, the valleywide bus agency that would be the prime benefactor from RTA funding. The government, however, isn’t willing to free up that money for the bus agency, he asserts.
According to a recent letter, there will about $10 million available in the near future, another $8.1 million that can be borrowed without voter approval and about $3 million a year in excess taxes. That money could easily go toward expanding and improving bus service, according to Evans. Elected officials say that the money Evans is referring to is mostly spoken for. The $10 million includes a little more than $5 million in the bank and about $4.8 million expected from the state as reimbursement for the Maroon Creek roundabout.
Officials hope to combine it with the $8.1 million that can be borrowed and another $10.2 million that voters are being asked to approve on Nov. 7.
The money would be used to purchase buses, improve lighting and safety at several bus stops, purchase employee housing for RFTA employees and help fund construction of a transit center at Snowmass Village.
Evans also doesn’t buy the argument that the RTA is needed as a way to get downvalley governments to pitch in their fair share toward valleywide bus service. He maintains that the downvalley communities can take care of themselves by raising taxes and contracting bus service from RFTA.
“If the RTA passes, it’s going to be more complex, not less,” he said. “There’s no consolidation going on here at all.
“The only thing they’re consolidating is people’s money.”
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I try to remember to give thanks every day I spend outside, whether it be floating the Colorado or Roaring Fork, fishing an epic dry fly hatch on the Fryingpan, or teasing up tiny brook trout on a remote lake or stream. We’re spoiled rotten here, so it’s easy to be thankful.