RFRHA delays decision on transit preference | AspenTimes.com

RFRHA delays decision on transit preference

The Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority is expected to put off its final decision on valleywide transportation for a week, to allow local task forces studying the issue more time to make recommendations.

An extra week of meetings is needed to complete discussions on rail and bus project objectives, phased construction and financing, tourist use, and parking, according to an Aug. 31 memo from holding authority Director Tom Newland.

“Because of the significant amount of work still remaining, I am recommending that each task force consider add- ing an additional meeting on the weeks of September 27 and October 4,” the memo reads. “In addition, I am recommending that the rest of the task force meetings be extended to three hours. This will give us the time I feel we need to fully discuss and decide upon a Locally Preferred Alternative,” Newland wrote.

The four citizens task forces have been working with the holding authority for nearly two years, making recommendations on commuter rail and enhanced commuter bus service. Each task force is made up of volunteers from the community it represents – downvalley, Carbondale, midvalley or upper valley. They are not considering the light-rail project which is part of the Entrance to Aspen, except as it relates to a commuter rail or enhanced bus service for the valley.

Under the altered schedule, the task forces recommend a “locally preferred alternative” in late September and early October.

The holding authority board, made up of elected officials from the three counties and five towns in the valley, will meet Oct. 8 to consider those recommendations and make a final decision. The board was originally supposed to decide on Oct. 1.

“We’ve been hearing from all the task forces, except Basalt, that they might need to schedule an extra meeting to get through everything,” said holding authority spokeswoman Alice Hubbard.

What they need to get through is reams of information from the mostly completed corridor investment study. The study includes information on operation and maintenance costs, ridership estimates, environmental impacts, analysis of noise levels, business and residential relocations, river crossings, wetland impacts and dozens of other factors that go into building and operating a rail system or greatly enhanced bus system.

Not all of the task force members see the need for the extra meeting, however. Basalt task force member Greg Baker is confident he and his colleagues can get make a recommendation with one, perhaps very long, meeting.

“I guess I feel as comfortable as I’m going to get about making a recommendation,” he said.

Like Baker, upper valley task force member Charlie Tarver believes he’s familiar enough with the information to make a recommendation.

“Personally, I’m not feeling hurried, but I’ve been working on this for six years,” Tarver said. He’s just worried about whether everyone who hasn’t had a chance to study the information closely will be able to understand it.

Tarver doesn’t think it matters whether he and the other task force members make a recommendation today or in the beginning of October. There’s just too much information to consider, he said.

“The information will not be in a usable form – thoroughly digested and discussed – by Nov. 2. Anyone who thinks it will has no idea of the scope and complexity of the valley, its transportation needs, or the study,” Tarver said.

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