Valley officials discuss merits of transportation authority today
Elected officials from throughout the Roaring Fork Valley will meet at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs today at 5 p.m. to discuss formation of a rural transportation authority, or RTA.
Taxes raised by the authority would fund regional transit – the existing valley bus system and possible future train service – if formation of the new taxing authority wins voter approval. It appears the issue won’t appear on ballots this November, though.
At a gathering of elected officials from up and down the valley in May, a straw poll taken by consultant Jim Charlier of Charlier and Associates indicated most valley governments support formation of the authority. At that time, Glenwood Springs and Eagle County were in favor of the authority, as were Pitkin County, Aspen and Snowmass Village. Garfield County weighed in as strongly opposed to its formation and Carbondale was undecided.
Besides likely opposition from at least Garfield County, delays in planning for the Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority’s 33-mile rail corridor between Glenwood Springs and Woody Creek is also likely to sabotage a November vote. A Corridor Investment Study that will determine the best use of the rail right of way, whether it be rail or bus service, won’t be done until October. That would not give local governments time to place a question about forming the authority on this November’s ballot.
Its delay will also hold up a vote to authorize funding for the Entrance to Aspen light rail project.
Recent state legislation opened the door for rural transportation authorities, allowing them to levy taxes through a $10 vehicle registration fee and a .4 percent sales tax.
But that, of course, would be up to the voters.
What the authority would gain for the valley would be funding for expanded bus service, possibly reaching Rifle and Eagle. The existing bus service offers routes from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. And the authority could also fund commuter rail service in the valley.
The Roaring Fork Transit Authority, which operates the valley’s bus service, has pushed for the new taxing authority. With rising operational costs, RFTA has said it will have to raise fares if the authority does not pass.
A .4 percent sales tax would fund existing bus service, the purchase of a new fleet, and expanded service along the I-70 corridor.
Coming out of the May meeting, however, was a general consensus that it is premature to put the question of yet another tax to voters this fall. Also before some voters in November will be proposed taxes for downvalley schools and libraries.
At its meeting tonight, area governments representatives are expected to discuss the RTA ballot question and debate just how much each community would be expected to contribute to regional transportation.
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