RFRHA board endorses rail system | AspenTimes.com

RFRHA board endorses rail system

After more than three years of study and deliberation by more than 100 volunteers and dozens of elected officials, the Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority board of directors agreed Friday that a commuter rail from Glenwood Springs to Aspen is the best local mass transportation alternative.

By a vote of 7-0, the board endorsed rail as the “locally preferred alternative,” following the recommendations of four citizen committees, seven governments and the organization’s own policy committee. The approval sets the stage for completion of a draft environmental impact statement and a series of public hearings beginning early next year. Both are part of a process aimed at qualifying for financial assistance from the federal government.

Holding Authority spokeswoman Alice Hubbard said the draft impact statement should be finished early next year. Federal law requires a 60-day public comment period once the draft is issued, Hubbard said, but that period is often extended to allow further comment.

The board’s decision, made with very little comment, comes just days before Aspen voters will decide whether to finance a light-rail system from the airport to Rubey Park.

If voters tomorrow authorize the city to spend up to $20 million, the federal government is expected to pay to extend the rail to Brush Creek Road, although construction of any transportation system in the upper valley depends on the Colorado Department of Transportation building bridges across Maroon Creek and Castle Creek.

The light-rail system under consideration in Aspen is financially connected to the commuter rail under consideration to serve the entire valley. If Aspen voters approve devoting existing taxes and fees toward light rail, the money will be factored into the 50 percent “local match” required to qualify for federal funding.

At Friday’s Holding Authority meeting, Pitkin County’ representative, Commissioner Dorothea Farris, urged her fellow board members and the community at large to look beyond the 20-year horizon that has been used for study and debate. “We need to look much further into our future than 20 years,” she said.

For the record, rail was recommended as the locally preferred alternative with a 6-0 vote by the Glenwood Springs City Council; a 5-2 vote by the Carbondale Board of Supervisors; a 7-0 vote by the Basalt Town Council; a 4-0 vote by the Snowmass Village Town Council; a 3-2 vote by the Aspen City Council; a 3-0 vote by the Eagle County commissioners; and 4-1 by the Pitkin County commissioners.

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