RFTA looks upvalley for funds
ASPEN A study to determine how to create bigger and better bus service for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is going to get funded, although elected officials haven’t determined which savings account to tap.Officials plan to ask the Elected Officials Transportation Committee for $200,000 Thursday to complete planning for a bus rapid transit system, also known as “RFTA on steroids.” RFTA officials have allocated $200,000 for the study and they want the Elected Officials Transportation Committee to chip in another $200,000.One line of reasoning is the upper government should fund a major part of the study since most remaining transportation problems exist in the upper valley. Some upper valley elected officials counter that RFTA should fund its own study.Arnie Mordkin, a RFTA board member and Snowmass Village councilman, said everyone agrees planning for expansion is necessary. “The issue is who’s money you’re spending,” he said. “My personal feeling is RFTA should do it’s own thing.”RFTA chief executive officer Dan Blankenship said there is a sense of urgency to secure funds. The bus agency hopes to score a federal grant to advance the bus rapid transit implementation. The deadline to apply is August. Therefore, it needs local funds now to “jump-start” the process, he said.”I know it gets old for RFTA to come with its tin cup up and beg,” Blankenship said, referring to the agency’s repeated requests for funding from the Elected Officials Transportation Committee.In case the upper valley governments ignore that tin cup this time, RFTA has a “plan B.” The agency’s board of directors voted unanimously last week to dip into RFTA’s own reserves for another $400,000 for the study – if the Elected Officials Transportation Committee doesn’t contribute.John Wilkinson, a Snowmass Village councilman and alternative director on RFTA’s board, questioned RFTA’s negotiating strategy. Why will the Elected Officials Transportation Committee bother allocating funds to RFTA’s study if RFTA says the funds are available in its reserve fund, he asked.The transportation committee is comprised of officials from Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County. It holds sales tax revenues for transportation improvements. RFTA is a bigger consortium of governments. It includes all governments from Aspen to New Castle except Garfield County. It controls its own, separate purse strings.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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