GarCo wants to get on board RFTA |

GarCo wants to get on board RFTA

Kara Williams
Special to the Post Independent

Garfield County Commissioners directed county staff Monday to investigate the possibility of joining the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, after years of balking.

Commissioner Tresi Houpt said the county should determine whether citizens would support a sales tax ballot question to help fund Garfield County’s membership in RFTA.

RFTA is the bus service that carries riders from Aspen to Rifle.

The commissioners also directed the county attorney to negotiate an amendment to RFTA’s intergovernmental agreement so Garfield County could become a part of the organization. Voters would have to approve that issue as well.

Both questions could be put on the Nov. 2 ballot.

“I think it’s time for a ballot question,” said Houpt.

The Garfield County Commissioners have historically opposed joining RFTA, which is operated by the Rural Transportation Authority.

The RTA currently includes the communities of Aspen, Snowmass Village, Pitkin County, Basalt, the western end of Eagle County, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. Each collect a sales tax to help subsidize the bus service.

Increased ridership on the Grand Hogback transit service between Rifle and Glenwood Springs means that some communities that benefit from the bus service aren’t helping to pay for it.

Ridership on the popular “Hog” route increased from 19,358 in 2002 (from April 15 to December 31) to 44,167 for the full year of 2003.

“We’re in a state of limbo,” said Heather Copp, RFTA chief operating officer. “We can’t look at expansion without more money.”

Commissioner John Martin questioned whether unincorporated Garfield County has enough of a sales tax base to warrant joining and supporting RFTA.

“The municipalities have a sales tax base, but we have few businesses,” he said. “If there is no revenue source, how can we join RFTA?”

Houpt recently attended a town council meeting in Rifle, where she said new council members were surprised to learn Garfield County was not already part of RFTA.

RFTA representatives present at Monday’s meeting, including Copp, executive director Dan Blankenship and RFTA board member Jacque Whitsitt of Basalt, were pleased with the commissioners’ decision.

But Commissioner Larry McCown added, “Be careful what you wish for.”

In other action Monday, the commissioners:

– Approved giving $30,000 to RFTA for developing preliminary construction plans for the Rio Grande Trail within RFTA’s rail corridor in Garfield County.

– Approved giving $30,000 to the Lower Valley Trails group for planning a regional trail.

– Approved giving $30,000 for a traffic origin and destination survey to be done by Healthy Mountain Communities.

– Approved spending $60,000 on a new ballot scanner for the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder’s office.

– Who: Citizen’s Advisory Committee of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority

– When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22

– Where: Silt Firehouse, 611 Main St.

– Why: All interested citizens are invited to attend to talk with advisory committee members about area transit issues.

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