RFTA appears on track for expansion
ASPEN ” The Roaring Fork Valley’s public bus system appeared on track for an expansion last night, based on election results from Pitkin County and partial tallies from Garfield and Eagle counties.
A sales tax hike and bond issuance to fund the expansion of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) was approved 4,713 to 3,951 in Pitkin County.
In Eagle County, the RFTA measure was ahead 1,384 to 947 as of 1 a.m.
In Garfield County, the RFTA expansion had a cushion of 2,874 in favor and 2,360 votes against. Only early and absentee ballots had been counted in Garfield County and posted on the government’s website as of 1 a.m.
In the three counties combined, the RFTA measure had a lead of 8,971 votes to 7,258. The lead for the tax hike appeared insurmountable, but no final tally was available at deadline time.
Voters were asked to approve two measures in one question ” an 0.4 percent sales tax increase in the transportation district and authority for RFTA to issue $44.55 million in bonds.
The bonds will be used to buy new buses, expanding facilities to maintain buses, improve bus stops and parking areas and undertake traffic improvements to speed travel times for buses.
The sales tax will add four cents per $10 of purchases of taxable goods. Proponents hammered the point that the tax hike was so small it wouldn’t hurt citizens but it was big enough to fund RFTA’s expansion.
RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship said bus riders could see the election results pay off this winter.
“We will look at what we can do to start addressing the standing room only situation,” he said.
Last winter, some buses traveling between downvalley towns and the upper valley were full at peak commuters times. Some additional buses will be put into service; the election victory will allow RFTA to hire staff to drive those buses.
The sales tax increase will raise an estimated $7.58 million in additional funds if projections hold true. The bond sales will provide RFTA funds for capital improvements, like new buses. The sales tax revenues will pay off those bonds over 30 years and provide additional operating funds.
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