Valley RTA: to form or not to form? |

Valley RTA: to form or not to form?

Allyn Harvey

To form or not to form?

That’s a question voters will eventually answer about whether the different communities in the Roaring Fork Valley should join together and form a rural transportation authority.

In the meantime, elected officials from eight separate jurisdictions have been plugging away at scores of questions about how to form a transportation authority that is as acceptable to residents in Glenwood Springs as it is to residents in Aspen.

Representatives from Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Snowmass Village, Eagle County, Garfield County and Pitkin County have been met three times over the last five weeks to examine the legal and financial ramifications of a transportation authority. First they decided who is going to participate, then they agreed on the major questions that need to be answered before crafting ballot language for the voters.

State law allows adjoining rural communities to create transportation districts to help defray the cost of mass transit and other transportation costs. Voters within the bounds of the rural transportation authority are then allowed to tax themselves to pay for the programs.

On March 9, the elected officials took a series of votes to answer a question about what the transportation authority will and will not do.

It will be charged with raising money for local transportation by finding new sources of funding – federal grants, state grants and local taxes. The money will definitely be used to enhance mass transit service along the Highway 82 corridor. “More frequent service is a big thing for everyone working on the RTA,” said transportation authority spokeswoman Alice Hubbard.

“What wasn’t clear before, but is now is that local feeder service will be a part of the picture, or at least a possibility for towns like Basalt and Carbondale,” Hubbard said.

If the final form of the transportation authority reflects the opinions of the elected officials on its policy committee, it won’t undertake “demand management” programs that coax people out of cars and onto mass transit, or mitigation projects such as building affordable housing near employment centers. Nor will it provide money for highway improvements or other transportation projects not directly related to mass transit in the form of either bus or rail.

Officials also agreed by varying margins that the transportation authority should be responsible for long-range planning, managing the valley’s rail corridor, and building and maintaining a trail system between Glenwood and Aspen.

The exact relationship between the transportation authority and the planning and operational functions of the valley’s bus agency and the Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority will be considered by elected officials at the policy committee meeting on March 22 at 9 a.m. in Carbondale Town Hall.

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