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Railroad firm presses RFTA

Greg MasseGlenwood Springs correspondent

A railroad-track salvage company on Monday renewed its offer to pay more than $900,000 to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to salvage the valley’s railroad tracks.The Salt Lake City-based A&K Railroad Materials offered $918,904 for about 33.5 miles of track and 4.2 miles of siding, as well as all other steel material.As part of the offer, A&K also offered to grade the rail bed. The offer is controversial because some feel that once the track is gone, so is any chance of ever having a valley train system. Others, however, believe removing the tracks and grading the rail bed would make a fantastic trail that can be used by bicyclists and pedestrians until an economical and viable train system becomes available. The offer, which was sent to RFTA on Monday, will expire in 30 days, or Sept. 23.”A&K must have sufficient time to remove the materials before winter conditions limit our ability to work,” the company’s offer letter says. “In order for A&K to pay premium prices for this material, we must be able to remove the rail before the expected drop in steel prices. The prices are currently twice what they were at this time last year.”RFTA Executive Director Dan Blankenship said the RFTA board has already instructed him to look into A&K’s previous offer, which was made in July, to see if the deal makes sense. “I will present this letter to my board, but they will probably not be in a position to say anything about it until the Sept. 9 meeting,” he said. Blankenship is trying to determine for the board if it will be better to sell the track and have the rail bed graded, or if the track should stay to accommodate another use, such as a dinner train. “The board wants to get as much input as possible,” he said. As a result of the sheer amount of information Blankenship and the staff has to collect, Blankenship said the board will likely need several months to make its decision on what to do with the track. Although that scenario allows the possibility that steel prices could drop, Blankenship said that’s the chance the board is willing to take. “It’s always a possibility it will go down, but there’s also the possibility it could go up – or back up,” he said. “There’s also the possibility that A&K’s offer is low.”Blankenship said that while selling the track looks tempting “and a lot of people are saying we ought to jump on it,” he said the board won’t make any decisions until more information is gathered. Dan Richardson, the Glenwood Springs City Council representative to the RFTA board, said he agrees that more information is needed.”There’s a lot to it,” he said. “Without doing a lot more research and personal conversations with A&K, I wouldn’t trust them. My gut is to verify their integrity before I do anything.”I don’t think it’s anything we should jump at just because they made an offer.”


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