RFTA OKs tracksalvage study | AspenTimes.com
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RFTA OKs tracksalvage study

Scott Condon

Train advocates must prove that something like a dinner car or sightseeing tours are legitimate between Glenwood Springs and Woody Creek or risk seeing the tracks ripped up and sold for salvage.The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s board of directors decided Thursday it wants to take a closer look at salvaging the rail and whether that would harm chances to resurrect passenger train service on the corridor someday.The board gave RFTA Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship permission to hire a specialist to evaluate the salvage value of the track, help craft a request for proposals for salvage companies, and evaluate whether any temporary railroad operation is realistic or just wishful thinking by hobbyists.Some board members were clearly fed up with lobbying from two groups making the most noise in the controversial debate.RFTA board member and Snowmass Village Councilman Arnie Mordkin told the rail advocates at the meeting to quit talking about the train possibilities and prove that something like a dinner train or tourist train will really work.”Now is the time for concrete, viable proposals to come forward,” Mordkin said.RFTA board chairwoman and Pitkin County Commissioner Dorothea Farris also said she’s heard enough about what rail advocates would like to see. Like Mordkin, she said she needs to consider a concrete plan that includes financial backing to make it a reality.Phil Johnson, a representative of the company that runs tourist trains in Royal Gorge and Canyon City, said his firm was “interested” in studying the route and making just such a concrete proposal. He didn’t say when such an offer might be forthcoming.Sharp comments also spilled out about A&K Railroad Materials, a Salt Lake City firm that offered RFTA $950,000 to tear up and scrap the tracks. RFTA board member and Carbondale Councilman Scott Chaplin said the board shouldn’t rush into a decision due to “high-pressure tactics” from A&K.The firm wrote RFTA a letter in July with a conditional offer of $900,000 for the tracks. It upped the ante to about $950,000 last month but said RFTA had to act fast because the price of scrap metal might tumble.”Just to sell to the first offer that comes along would be grossly irresponsible,” said Chaplin. He said a thorough study of the salvage potential and the possible consequences of ripping up the tracks is vital so RFTA isn’t “railroaded into a bad decision.”For example, Chaplin said, the tracks may be worth more than what A&K offered. He said his Internet search indicated metal market prices may continue climbing into 2005.”Are we selling an antique silver dollar for 50 cents?” Chaplin asked.Blankenship plans to hire an expert to help find the answer. He said consultation will likely cost between $20,000 and $25,000, and the process could take up to three months.A report will be brought back to RFTA board members, and they will decide if the agency should pursue the salvage.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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