Pitco endorses forming an RTA | AspenTimes.com

Pitco endorses forming an RTA

Pitkin County endorsed the idea of a Rural Transportation Authority in the Roaring Fork Valley yesterday, when county commissioners voted to join other valley governments in forming a regional transit agency.

The vote means every government in the valley, save Garfield County and Carbondale, has agreed to an election on the concept next May. Carbondale trustees debated the resolution Tuesday, but put off action.

County Commissioner Patti Clapper, an opponent of proposals to build a commuter rail between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, split with some in the anti-rail camp by supporting the resolution.

State law allows local governments to cooperate on mass transit by forming a Rural Transportation Authority, or RTA.

An RTA must be approved by voters in the authority’s proposed jurisdiction, but once formed it can raise funds by imposing a $10 vehicle registration fee, according to a memo included with the resolution passed yesterday. The law also allows RTAs to request voter approval for additional funding with a sales tax increase of up to 0.4 percent.

The idea of forming an RTA has been floating around the Roaring Fork Valley for several years. The plan under consideration now will include most or all of the governments in this valley, and perhaps two or three in the Grand Valley, including Silt and New Castle.

The current drive toward a May election has been spurred by the Roaring Fork Transit Agency’s continued budget woes. Earlier this year, the bus agency came to upper valley governments with hat in hand, requesting an additional $400,000 for the 2000 budget, just to maintain the current level of service and fares.

“RFTA will be forced to consider major regional service reductions unless additional resources required to maintain existing services are identified soon,” the memo reads.

One elected official from the midvalley told the Times last week that the RTA election amounts to a RFTA bail out.

The commissioners approved the resolution yesterday with little comment. Commissioner Dorothea Farris did not attend yesterday’s meeting, and County Commissioner Mick Ireland arrived late and missed the vote.

Asked during a break in the meeting if there were concerns about holding an RTA election so soon after a light-rail funding proposal lost badly in Aspen, Ireland said he didn’t think so.

“It’s a different issue. An RTA doesn’t require a train. It doesn’t even create an imminent threat of a train being built anytime soon,” he said. “I don’t think most people who are opposed to rail will be opposed to an RTA.”

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