Roaring Fork Transportation Authority gets $2.2 million federal grant | AspenTimes.com

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority gets $2.2 million federal grant

Majority of the grant money to go toward funding four clean diesel buses

Matthew Bennett
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

From left, RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship, K. Jane Williams and Glenwood Springs Mayor Mike Gamba at the grand ceremony on Tuesday morning.

The nation’s top ranking transit official made a stop in Glenwood Springs Tuesday to announce a lucrative federal grant in the form of $2.2 million heading the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s way.

RFTA employees, city councilors, city staff — and one heckler — huddled around the 27th Street Park and Ride in the rain, where RFTA board member and Glenwood Springs Mayor Michael Gamba kicked off the event.

“The FTA (Federal Transit Administration) has been a major and valued financing partner of RFTA,” Gamba said. “The 27th Street BRT Station, at which we are gathered today, would not have been possible without the $25 million, Very Small Starts grant that was awarded to RFTA by the FTA in 2011.”

Following Gamba’s comments, RFTA’s Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship took to the podium, and it did not take long before he was met with a heckler.

Apparently not a fan of the big to-do, the heckler attempted to interrupt the RFTA CEO’s speech until two Glenwood Springs police officers politely quieted him down.

Blankenship also offered a campaign pitch for RFTA’s upcoming ballot measure, which seeks a new mill levy to help expand the maintain the bus system that runs between Aspen and Rifle.

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“Affordable housing is in short supply, and it is not uncommon for people to commute 30 to 40 miles, one-way, to and from the economic centers where the jobs are,” Blankenship said. “CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) and the FTA must continue to develop mobility choices for our region that will help to preserve our way of life…

“RFTA’s Destination 2040 plan and ballot measure 7A are designed to help chart the course for a better tomorrow, because the region’s future truly does ride on RFTA,” Blankenship said.

RFTA ballot question specifically will ask voters to approve a 2.65 mill levy property tax on both residential and commercial property owners within the RFTA district.

Following Blankenship’s stump speech, the RFTA CEO introduced and turned things over to FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams, who was in Glenwood Springs for the presentation.

“Today, I am excited to congratulate the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, otherwise known as RFTA, with a $2.2 million grant,” Williams said. “It is a pleasure to congratulate Dan and his team; we are happy to work with them again.

“I have to tell you, this program is highly oversubscribed,” she added. “We received 339 applications representing $2.2 billion in requests for funding. RFTA won one of those grants,” Williams added.

According to an FTA news release, “The award will enable the nation’s largest rural transit agency to modernize buses in its bus rapid transit (BRT) service.”

Additionally, following the event Williams told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent that the vast majority of the grant would go toward funding four clean diesel buses.

“Those diesel buses will actually have real time information available. They will have charging chords so (riders) will be able to work while they are on the bus, and these are long commutes,” Williams said. “Looking at grants in rural America, trying to help the rural part of the country in replacing their bus fleets is very important to this administration.”

mabennett@postindependent.com