Roaring Fork Valley’s credibility on the line over transit plan
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Roaring Fork Valley’s best chance to secure federal funding for mass transit is with an expanded bus system rather than light rail, an official with a high-powered lobbying firm said Thursday.
Becky Weber, managing director of the Washington, D.C. office of BKSH Associates, told officials with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority that switching gears to seek federal funds for a light-rail system rather than a bus rapid transit system could be disastrous.
Colorado’s Congressional delegation is aware the Roaring Fork Valley is investigating expansion of its bus system, Weber said. Switching the focus to light rail will cause the Congressional delegation to question if local officials know what they are doing.
“It will build a certain level of uncertainty, a lack of confidence,” Weber said.
She offered her insight when RFTA’s board of directors gathered at a retreat Thursday in Glenwood Springs to discuss the agency’s future. Expanded service called bus rapid transit (BRT) has been contemplated for months. Snowmass Village councilman and RFTA board member John Wilkinson wondered if the agency should resurrect consideration of light rail as well.
Weber said local government “lost credibility” with Colorado’s Congressional delegation while debating a commuter rail system in the late 1990s. The local governments were laying the foundation to secure funding for a valleywide rail system. Then, Pitkin County citizens voted in 1998 to stop the county from spending any more money on train studies.
The Roaring Fork Valley has regained its credibility with the Congressional delegation since that 1990s debacle. But to switch gears again would be “like starting over,” according to Weber.
“You can’t afford a second loss of credibility,” she said.
Even without a switch back to rail, securing federal funding for mass transit will be difficult, she said. The Federal Transit Administration has significantly scaled back the funds it awards to projects. Her advice was to secure a commitment for a large share of local funding before approaching the Congressional delegation for help acquiring federal dollars.
The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a limited-liability company has proper standing to sue the city of Aspen over its affordable-housing fees.