Bus ride provides preview of new service to west
Dogs chased and people gawked awkwardly, wondering if the big blue bus was lost.
But there was no mistake, the bus that rolled its way through the quaint old towns west of Glenwood Springs brought with it a glimpse into the future.
Employees of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority hosted a test run of its new Glenwood-to-Rifle route on Friday, eager for comments and suggestions from the half-dozen or so planners who came along for the ride.
The bus left from its new home, the RFTA maintenance facility on West Midland Avenue, and headed for what still smacks of the old West.
The tour was designed to let representatives from New Castle, Silt, Rifle, the Colorado Department of Transportation and Glenwood Springs get a feel for the route and suggest where to locate stops and turnarounds.
“We’re going to work with it over the next three weeks,” RFTA planning director Mike Davis said.
Future park and ride locations also were discussed. They will likely be located in areas where people already carpool and cars pile up, so the changes will reflect people’s existing habits.
As the tentative schedule now stands, the first bus would leave Rifle before the sun even clears the eastern hills. As it leaves town, however, instead of jumping on Interstate 70, the bus follows old Highway 6, a less-used but more scenic byway that conjures images of travel in the slower-paced days of yore.
The route passes directly through three distinct small downtown areas: Rifle, Silt and New Castle, a route often forgotten by many area residents.
Once through New Castle, the bus jumps onto I-70 and buzzes along the river to Glenwood Springs.
That early bus, slated to leave Rifle at 5:20 a.m., gives riders plenty of time to transfer to an upvalley bus at the Glenwood Springs Mall and get to work in Aspen by the time work starts.
For those commuting just to Glenwood Springs, there’s a later bus leaving Rifle at 7:20 a.m. that would get workers there shortly after 8 a.m.
Those times times could change before the targeted April 15 start date.
“This is all arranged so you can use one bus driver going back and forth,” Davis said.
Colorado Department of Transportation project engineer Ralph Trapani, who was weighing in on the route from a transportation perspective, noted that CDOT is about to undertake a study to determine the feasibility of connecting RFTA with the Eagle/Vail valley bus service.
As far as potential delays, Trapani also pointed out that I-70 closes more often than Highway 6 from snow-related accidents.
Once in Glenwood Springs, the exact route is still uncertain. It seems that it will follow the Colorado River under the Grand Avenue Bridge, then turn around somewhere on the eastern side of town, stopping at the Amtrak depot somewhere along the way.
The name of the route is also a question. It’s been informally termed the Rifle route or the I-70 route, but a more appropriate name will likely be dubbed to allow for changes and even further westward expansion.
Some names thrown out by Friday’s bus riders were the central Garfield County Route and the Colorado River Route.
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