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City postpones RFTA access plan comments

The Rio Grande Trail follows the old railroad corridor between Highway 82 and South Grand Avenue across from the Roaring Fork Marketplace in south Glenwood Springs
John Stroud/Post Independent |

Glenwood Springs City Council will hold off in making any comments on the Rio Grande Trail corridor Access Control Plan until after meeting next month with other area elected officials to discuss the ramifications of the proposal.

Garfield County commissioners have suggested a roundtable meeting among the local government members of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which oversees the former railroad corridor, and others who would be impacted by the restrictive access plan.

That meeting is tentatively scheduled for the evening of March 4 in Glenwood Springs.

City Council had been set to take up formal comments at its Thursday meeting to send to RFTA by a Feb. 7 deadline, stating its concerns about the access plan.

However, several RFTA member governments have asked for at least a 30-day extension to that comment period, and the Garfield commissioners have asked for another 60 days to prepare their comments.

City and county, as well as Carbondale town officials, have aired concerns about the plan since it was released for comment at the end of the year.

Glenwood Springs and county officials in particular think the access plan, as proposed, goes too far in its attempt to control access across the corridor as it relates to both public and private land-use and development.

“I do think there is a lot to be gained from have a conversation with the county and with Carbondale so that we can listen to each other’s concerns and develop comments,” City Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said.

Private property owners along the corridor should also be brought into the discussion, Councilman Mike Gamba said.

“I believe a significant number of them don’t understand the ramification of this proposed policy,” he said.

Councilman Dave Sturges advised that he has been encouraging RFTA for many years to shore up its access control plan.

The plan is intended to protect not only the foot and bike trail that exists on the corridor today but the “railbanked” legal status of the corridor that preserves it for a future commuter train or reinstatement of freight rail, should either of those options become feasible.

“I have pushed RFTA to get in and do this, before we had all these site-specific issues,” Sturges said, referring specifically to the city’s proposed South Bridge project, which involves a trail crossing; and the planned Eighth Street connection, which crosses the “wye” section of the rail line.

Sturges said the process now needs to be slowed down so he public can have adequate time to examine and comment on the access plan.

City Engineer Terri Partch said she was informed that the Colorado Department of Transportation is also likely to comment on RFTA’s access plan. CDOT was prompted to take its time two years ago when it was developing its own access control plan for Highway 82.

Earlier this week, RFTA assured county commissioners that the plan is not intended to deny the legal right of property owners to continue to use historical crossings of the railroad corridor. They also assured a handful of Glenwood Springs property owners whose land appears to encroach on a section of the right of way, based on a 2012 survey, that the agency would work to rectify that situation.


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