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RFTA rolls out its station plans

Contributed imageThe Roaring Fork Transportation Authority on Tuesday unveiled the design for 14 bus stations it plans to build along the Highway 82 corridor as part of its expansion.
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ASPEN – The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority on Tuesday unveiled the general design of bus stations that will adorn 14 high-visibility stops along the Roaring Fork Valley’s spine.

RFTA will build the new stations as part of its $50 million expansion of the bus system that will be undertaken during the next three years. RFTA and its consultants will try to sell details of its plan to the public in a series of meetings starting in Glenwood Springs on Feb. 16. Two meetings will be held in Aspen on Feb. 17. Pitkin County Commissioners received a sneak preview of the project Tuesday in Aspen.

RFTA Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship said the team anticipated that the bus stations and other aspects of the plan would be “well-received” by the public, particularly people who are already riding the buses.

The stations feature covered waiting areas with seating for the cold and blustery days, outside seating in landscaped areas for the pleasant days, bike storage, real-time electronic indicators that tell riders where the bus is located and, possibly, bathrooms and electronic ticket sale machines.

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The expansion plan, officially called bus rapid transit and unofficially dubbed “RFTA on steroids,” is designed to make the bus system more competitive with private vehicles. Better bus stations, where riders can get out of the rain and snow, is just one aspect of the plan. There will be significantly more buses, and more of them making direct trips between Aspen and destinations downvalley. Special stop light triggers will be added to give buses an advance start at intersections and improvements will be made to roads to ease buses through bottlenecks.

The 14 new bus stations will be installed at nine locations in the valley, all along Highway 82. They are:

• At a location in South Glenwood Springs that will have to be developed, including adequate parking.

• At the existing park-and-ride in Carbondale, just off Highway 82 on Highway 133. Stations will be added on both sides of the road.

• At El Jebel, in both the upvalley and downvalley lanes. RFTA won’t use the space it leases near El Jebowl. Instead it hopes to acquire the vacant lot that was home to multiple restaurants over the years, including Calypso, Mermaids, Cilantro’s and, 20 years ago, Wiegner’s. A station there would require a park-and-ride.

• At Willits, in both the upvalley and downvalley lanes. RFTA is exploring a public-private partnership to build an underpass between the Willits Town Center, where a Whole Foods Market is proposed, and Ace Lane’s residential and commercial project on the north side of the highway.

• At Basalt, in both the upvalley and downvalley lanes. The existing park-and-ride on the south side of the highway would be incorporated into the plan. RFTA is exploring adding 125 parking spaces.

• At the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road. A major transit stop and parking lot already exist there, but both are under-utilitized, according to RFTA. The site would get the equivalent of two stations there.

• At the Aspen Airport Business Center, in both the upvalley and downvalley lanes.

• At Buttermilk, where upvalley and downvalley stations would be designed with the assumption that the ski area will continue to host major events such as the Winter X Games.

• Rubey Park in Aspen. The existing transit hub in Aspen would be upgraded.

Valley voters approved a sales tax hike in November 2008 to support the issuance of $25 million in bonds for the project. RFTA applied for another $24 million from the federal transportation department. It recently learned that President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 recommends approving that grant. Congressional approval is still needed.

If all goes as planned, construction on the stations will start this spring. The expanded RFTA would be operating by September 2013.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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