Skico is on board with rail |

Skico is on board with rail

Allyn Harvey

The Aspen Skiing Co. added its voice to the growing number of organizations that are in favor of a “yes” vote on the rail financing question in the city of Aspen election next month.

“The company has always been supportive of the concept of rail, but I think our support is going to a new level. I’d say we’re going from moderately supportive to aggressively supportive,” said John Norton, the Skico’s chief operating officer.

Aspen voters are being asked to grant the city permission to borrow up to $20 million to help pay for a light-rail system between the airport and the Rubey Park bus station.

The question was forced onto the ballot by the Common Sense Alliance, an anti-rail group, with the help of two city councilmen, who orchestrated a citizen’s initiative petition drive. A “yes” vote requires no tax increase, because the money needed to repay the debt will come from the existing half-cent sales tax dedicated to transit.

“The citizen task forces in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt and the upper valley all say we should keep pursuing rail, and we agree. We wish we didn’t have an election now, but we do. The company is supporting Question 200 and the citizen task forces,” Norton said.

Norton said another factor in the company’s decision is the prospect of federal support for a valleywide system, which is quite different from past proposals. “I think in terms of opportunity we are in a different place, and in terms of transportation needs, we’re in a different place,” he said.

A big reason for the company’s support is the fact that the second largest company in the world has shown a strong interest in building and operating a commuter line between Glenwood Springs and Aspen. Skico officials met twice over the last few weeks with representatives from Daimler Chrysler’s rail subsidiary, Adtranz, who presented both the technology and the financial wherewithal to run a system here.

“Daimler Chrysler turned us on our heads, and I think it will do the same with rest of the business community,” Norton said.

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