Regretting the lack of rail transit

Dear Editor:

In response to Lynn Burton’s column of May 21 in the Aspen Daily News, I would dispute his recollection of the “facts” and would submit that his interpretations are certainly influenced by his political opinions.

The mistakes that were made in the late 1990s regarding the implementation of a light-rail system were made by some in the local electorate who swallowed a campaign of misinformation and turned down local funding to match federal funding for a first-class, light-rail transit system for the Roaring Fork Valley for what now seems like a reasonable price of $147 million plus when one compares it to current proposals for Bus Rapid Transit over the next decade at a proposed cost of $180 to $190 million.

The late 1990s were one of the few times in recent memory that visionary leadership was displayed by local elected officials and, yes, spearheaded by Aspen, to solve what they could predict would be the congestion and traffic problems we experience today. The truth is that all downvalley commuters, expanding at an ever-increasing pace, will benefit from an efficient mass-transit system. In fact, we all will. Yes, we dream that someday Aspen residents will be spared from the influx of commuter traffic, pollution and parking they experience every workday. One need only look at the difference between Aspen and Highway 82 on a weekend and a weekday to realize that much of the congestion and traffic ” close to the capacity of the current four-lane ” is a result of commuters without an efficient mass-transit alternative.

Perhaps Mr. Burton’s commentary should be focused on positive efforts to improve the valley rather than dwelling on the negativity so perfectly displayed by the naysayers, like Tony Hershey and Jeffrey Evans, who vocally dominated the political scene in the late 1990s. We would all be better off with an efficient, rail-transit alternative in place. Instead, we have a very nice bike path on the transit corridor and commuters facing $5 plus for a gallon of gas, with the only prospects for improved transit being an expanded bus system ” heavily dependent on fossil fuels, operating in mixed traffic, costly because of its inefficiencies ” and the necessity of funding more housing for more drivers to drive more buses. Even RFTA acknowledges the superiority of rail with their “Think Rail, Use Buses” slogan.

To compare elected leaders of the late 1990s to the current mismanagement related to the exorbitant cost overruns at Burlingame is a disservice to those forward-thinking elected officials who attempted to make a positive difference in the quality of life in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Lisa Markalunas



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