Pro-railers launch counter-attack |

Pro-railers launch counter-attack

When Aspen voters go to the polls this fall, one pro-rail group is hoping they will think carefully about the rail funding question and its implications for the upper valley’s future.

And then, they hope residents will vote yes.

Citizens for a Livable Valley, a local advocacy group formed last fall to campaign for rail, affordable housing and open space preservation, announced its support yesterday for the rail funding question on the city of Aspen ballot.

Several members from the roughly 70-member group were on hand at a press conference in front of the Wheeler Opera House, promising to actively campaign in favor of the funding question.

“We plan to run a grassroots campaign and expect to be dramatically outspent, but we plan to fully disclose our contributions,” said group coordinator Steve Smith.

Voters are being asked to give the city permission to borrow $20 million against the existing half-cent sales tax that is devoted to transportation. If the measure passes, the money will be committed to the light rail portion of the Entrance to Aspen project.

No new taxes will be required if approval is given, because the transportation sales tax is already in place. It will, however, mean less money for other projects once the money is finally borrowed.

Yesterday, group members focused on four points: Rail fits in well with the valley’s vision of itself, now and in the future; it will work – more transportation options mean it’s easier for everybody to get where they need to go; it can be paid for with existing revenues; and if it isn’t approved now, there may not be another opportunity.

Hub of Aspen owner Charlie Tarver also urged voters to consider the people on either side of the issue and their records of commitment to the community. “Take a look at Citizens for a Livable Valley. They are the people who helped make this community – up and down the valley – a place we are all proud to live in,” he said.

Many advocates of rail feel the question is coming too soon, because of uncertainty about when the state will finish its widening of Highway 82, which is a critical component of the Entrance to Aspen.

But the question was forced on the ballot through a citizens’ initiative orchestrated by the Common Sense Alliance and Aspen City Council members Tom McCabe and Tony Hershey, both of whom are on the record against the light rail proposal.

With the question on the ballot, the pro-rail group felt it had to respond positively. “The alternative is years and years of gridlock – political gridlock and automobile gridlock,” said Stan Clauson, Citizens for a Livable Valley member.

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