RFTA officials to rethink salvage decision for valley rail corridor | AspenTimes.com

RFTA officials to rethink salvage decision for valley rail corridor

Janet Urquhart
RFTA's decision not to sell the steel track in its rail corridor raised some eyebrows. Courtesy photo.

Public consternation over the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s decision not to consider selling the steel track in the valley’s rail corridor for salvage has RFTA board members ready to give the proposal further discussion.The board recently indicated it did not want RFTA staffers to follow up on an unsolicited offer from A&K Railroad Materials to purchase the rails for $900,000 – an offer that was subject to several conditions. The decision, given cash-strapped RFTA’s financial struggles, raised some eyebrows and prompted a few highly critical letters in local newspapers.Dan Blankenship, RFTA’s CEO, has since contacted board members; they’ve indicated they’d like to give the matter further discussion at their Aug. 12 meeting.

“I think everybody felt it was an issue that needed to be discussed more at length,” he said. (A letter to the editor from Blankenship outlining the board’s initial consideration of the proposal appears on page A11.)A&K’s offer wasn’t even on the board’s agenda for discussion on July 8, but a letter from the company was included with the board’s materials and it was discussed informally at the end of the meeting.”I don’t think it got the consideration and the amount of discussion it required,” Blankenship said.”I think it’s much more complex than the first headlines made it sound – that RFTA turned down a check for $900,000,” said Dorothea Farris, a Pitkin County commissioner and RFTA board chairwoman.

If the board does want to explore the salvage of the rails, RFTA would put out a request for proposals in order to determine the actual value of the steel, according to Blankenship. And it would be the RFTA board that sets the conditions on their removal, Farris stressed.”If we decide we want to do that, we need to say what we want,” she said.A survey of the corridor would also be in order before the tracks are removed, Blankenship said. The corridor is measured from the center line of the rails – there’d be no way to define the corridor unless it’s surveyed before the rails disappear.

The salvage debate has pitted trail advocates against those who dream of a future rail transit line using the corridor.Dale Will, executive director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, recently expressed dismay over the RFTA board’s decision to reject the salvage offer, which he contends could speed up the completion of a valleywide trail in the corridor.Others have questioned why RFTA would turn down an infusion of funds when it’s preparing to ask voters for more tax support in November.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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