RFRHA refutes consultant’s report | AspenTimes.com
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RFRHA refutes consultant’s report

Donna Daniels

The Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority board has taken a few swipes at a study commissioned by Garfield County that takes its own swipes at the comprehensive plan for the transit corridor.

Consultant Dennis Stranger’s report, submitted in early January, questions the transit alternatives identified in the comprehensive plan, as well as land-use issues, trails construction and eventual transit funding.

RFRHA executive director Tom Newland rebutted Stranger’s report.

If RFRHA were truly concerned about transporting workers from downvalley towns to Aspen it would provide for housing those workers, Stranger said in the report. But Newland pointed out that RFRHA’s responsibility is providing transit not housing.

Stranger also took aim at a ridership model that he and others have questioned as being based on flawed data. “The bottom line is that the model was used as a tool for analyses in a way determined by an independent audit to be consistent with the state of the practice,” Newland said.

RFRHA board chairman Dorothea Farris also pointed out that the model did not take into consideration a “factor for resort models” which is often overlooked. Farris did not elaborate on what that factor entailed.

Also affecting the ridership model, that indicates rail will be more popular with commuters than bus, was a “rail effectiveness” factor that Stranger saw as slanting the plan toward rail transit as the preferred transportation mode for the corridor.

Stranger questioned the comprehensive plan’s assertion that rail would curtail sprawl and would not conflict with the county and municipal land-use master plans. Stranger said RFRHA’s “Transit Oriented Development appears to be at odds with the Garfield County Comprehensive Plan which is not dependent on rail transportation or the densities envisaged by the Transit Oriented Design concept.

“Of course there is no proof that the rail alternative will result in a different land-use development pattern and the assumption that the current development pattern is undesirable is merely opinion.”

Newland said the RFRHA analysis took into consideration all local comprehensive land-use plans. “I beg to differ that the rail alternative will depend on certain land uses,” he said.

Stranger also touched on a concern that has apparently gotten under the skin of Garfield County, that RFRHA will act as a land-planning agency. Stranger quoted the RFRHA comprehensive plan which said, “It is the policy of RFRHA to participate in the review of planning, zoning, and development applications, as necessary, to safeguard the interests of the railroad,” specifically in reference to applications for railroad crossing permits.

“What interests of the railroad could be affected by planning, zoning and development applications?” Stranger asked in his report. “It should be the other way around – RFRHA should be minimizing impacts created by the railroad and trails on adjacent properties and facilitating development of adjacent properties to the extent possible without compromising the physical operation of the railroad.”

But Newland said that RFRHA’s concern with land-development applications would strictly be specific design aspects that would affect a new railroad crossing into a new housing or commercial development.

“I don’t see we’re in conflict” with the county’s land-use planning process, Newland said.

A final draft of the plan of the comprehensive plan will be circulated to regional governments for official ratification with a view to issuing the final plan Mar. 1.


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