Transportation authority tabs Blankenship for director spot |

Transportation authority tabs Blankenship for director spot

Allyn Harvey

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority has convinced Dan Blankenship to become the fledgling bus agency’s executive director, ensuring the valley’s top transit official remains on the job through a difficult transition period.

Blankenship has been in charge at the Roaring Fork Transit Agency for 12 years. During that time he’s overseen several successful expansions of the agency’s service, including the introduction of service every half-hour between El Jebel and Aspen.

“Dan is one of the RFTA’s greatest assets,” said transportation authority chair T. Michael Manchester, announcing the agreement at the organization’s monthly meeting last Thursday.

Blankenship’s next challenge will be overseeing the end of the Roaring Fork Transit Agency, a government-funded bus agency that relies mostly on Pitkin County taxes, and the creation of a fully operational Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which is funded by taxes collected in seven of the valley’s eight jurisdictions. His contract runs until June 2002.

Voters authorized formation of a transportation authority last November. Its mandate is to extend bus service from Glenwood Springs to Rifle and increase existing valley bus service. It’s also responsible for conducting long-range transportation planning, management of the publicly owned rail corridor and construction of a regional trail.

Currently, buses run from Glenwood Springs to Aspen once every two hours; beginning next month, if all goes as planned, buses will run every half-hour between the two cities. The authority aims to begin 15-minute service from El Jebel next winter, and local service is planned for Basalt, eventually.

The transition is expected to take about 18 months.

Several other steps were taken Thursday to hasten the transition. George Hart resigned as chairman of the board at the old RFTA to allow Manchester to become the head of both organizations.

The authority also moved to accelerate its takeover of the Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority in a plan to reduce overlapping bureaucracies and cut costs. The new transportation authority already controls the holding authority’s budget, and its board is made up of representatives from the same local governments.

A new conservation enforcement advisory commission is being formed to ensure conservation values and trails on the 34-mile rail corridor from Glenwood to Woody Creek, a press release said. It will consist of elected officials from each member government, appointments made by the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board and the new downvalley Open Space district, and two citizens at large.

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority board of directors meetings are at 9 a.m. on the second Thursday of every month. For more information on decisions to date or upcoming decisions, please contact Alice Hubbard, transition manager, at 963-9012.

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