Rail ain’t dead yet
As of recently I have noticed items in the paper like Allyn Harvey’s Aspen Times April 16 article and a recent editorial from KNCB Moore stating that rail is dead.
What I would like to point out is that the effort to build rail is not dead, but like a phoenix has re-risen in a new form called the “Bus/Rapid Transit” proposal (BRT).
When I went to the Aspen BRT forum at City Hall on Feb. 7 I read all of the BRT posters there. One notable statement was that the “transit stations” were to be built along the rail corridor. If this proposal were really about a better bus system, then, of course, the stations would be built where the buses currently operate, along Highway 82.
During the forum, Roger Millar from OTAK tried to explain this to me, pleading to my emotions, by stating that the stations were being put along the rail corridor so that they would not have to be torn down and rebuilt later.
Mr. Millar doesn’t seem to remember the Pitkin County 1996 vote which killed a rail system being built in this valley, so there is no reason to build a transit station along the rail corridor. I do remember that Roger Millar and OTAK came here in the late ’90s to help sell us a rail system, which of course OTAK would build. Nothing has changed here.
Another BRT proposal was to sectionally build rail if approval was given in a political subdivision. For example, if only in this valley during election time Pitkin County voted for a rail system, then the RTA and OTAK could build a rail system from Brush Creek to Basalt.
RTA head Dan Blankenship let us know of his intentions to do this in the Aspen Daily News June 28, 2001, edition, when he stated, “The long-term goal of rail can still be retained as the locally preferred alternative, but we’ll have to get there in stages.”
By doing this, building rail stations, then building rail in sections, the pro-rail government officials can sneak in a rail system under the valley voters’ noses. It’s quite deceitful actually, and completely disregards previous public anti-rail votes.
If the public wants the effort to build rail to be really dead, then it has to do a few things. The public must vote out of office pro-rail government officials like Pitkin Commissioners Farris and Roy-Harper. The public must demand that their officials work on a state level to change laws regarding the regional transportation organizations like the RTA, so that the public can vote who they want to represent them as their RTA representatives (like the citizens of Denver do).
The public must demand that pro-rail RTA management appointees like Dan Blankenship be terminated, and replaced with people who are more in line with their views, like an Eve Homeyer or a Jeffrey Evans.
The public must vote against this proposed BRT transit system as well; to call it a “Bull/Rapid Transit” would be more appropriate. Until the above are done, all this talk about rail being dead is misleading at best.
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City of Aspen officials are trying to figure out what the downtown core looks like this winter as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the state and in some parts of the country.