Transit access plan identifies key trail links
A new transit access plan developed by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority lays out a vision for better connecting people to bus facilities via bicycle and pedestrian links along RFTA’s 84-mile service corridor from Aspen to Parachute.
Included in the 25-year master plan are several trail connections, pedestrian bridges, dedicated bike lanes and sidewalk improvements that would make it easier for people to walk or bike to and from bus stops in the different communities.
The Regional Bicycle, Pedestrian & Transit Access Plan has been in the works for a little over a year, using a federal grant. The idea is to improve pedestrian accessibility and to establish priority projects that can achieve that goal.
“An example of an integrated system is enabling a bus rider to exit a bus, get on a bicycle at the station, ride down the Rio Grande Trail to one of the towns, and follow way-finding signs to downtown amenities,” Jason White, project manager for RFTA, said in releasing the plan this week.
The three area county governments provided matching funds and staff to help develop the plan, working with various user groups and community organizations to identify trail needs in the region.
RFTA points to the 2014 Regional Travel Patterns Study, which found that residents in the Colorado River and Roaring Fork River valleys drive less and walk, bike and use transit two to three times more than the national average.
The goal of the Bike-Ped-Transit plan is to make it easier for people to utilize alternative modes of transportation between points within RFTA’s service area besides the private vehicle.
Among the high-priority trail projects are various segments of the long-envisioned Lower Valley (LoVa) Trail in Garfield County, possibly using the Highway 6 right of way or even some of the Union Pacific rail right of way near Parachute.
Extension of the Crystal Valley Trail south toward Redstone in Pitkin County also earned high marks, as did a new bicycle-pedestrian bridge over the Roaring Fork River linking Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel to the Rio Grande Trail.
Other projects are simply aimed at providing safer, more direct links to existing Bus Rapid Transit stations, including pedestrian/bike bridges over Highway 82 at 27th Street in Glenwood Springs, and over Highway 133 at the BRT station in Carbondale that sits directly on the Rio Grande Trail.
Completion of the existing dead-end trail next to Lowe’s on Midland Avenue to the Interstate 70 Exit 114 roundabout in West Glenwood is already in the works for completion next year. The $750,000 project is being paid for by a Garfield Federal Mineral Lease grant and the city of Glenwood Springs.
That project in particular is viewed as a crucial one in light of the planned Grand Avenue Bridge replacement, which will include a three-month Highway 82 detour in late 2017 when project officials hope to reduce current traffic levels by 20 percent.
“In terms of numbers, Garfield County identified the most priority projects throughout the plan area,” according to the plan, which can be found on RFTA’s website, http://www.rfta.com.
“Size of county and lack of infrastructure were likely contributing factors,” the plan states. “The most regionally significant project identified is the LoVa Trail, which focuses on building a 47-mile regional nonmotorized route through the Colorado River Valley and the I-70 corridor from Glenwood Springs west to the Garfield County line.”
To date, only two short, unconnected sections of that trail have been completed near West Glenwood and at South Canyon. Several attempts to connect those two segments have fallen short of funding goals.
The new master plan provides a good framework for additional grant funding opportunities, RFTA said, by improving multi-modal transit options in the region, enhancing safety, maximizing existing transit investments, improving public health, reducing fossil fuel dependence and improving local and regional economies.
“Although each town or county has varying levels of bike-ped awareness and planning, when all combined this rural region is lucky to have so many alternative transportation options beyond the personal automobile, which enhances the high quality of life,” said Josh Mehlem of Alta Planning, which was the lead consultant on the study.
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