Opening of RFTA park-and-ride might be only months away
Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus riders have a lot to look forward to this fall.RFTA hopes to open a park-and-ride lot in West Glenwood by Thanksgiving, in time for the start of its winter schedule. A lot in Carbondale may also open by early next year, if not sooner.The lots, which will be paved and lit, with shelters, are being funded in part by nearly $2 million Congress originally authorized for planning the future of the railroad corridor.RFTA spent $2 million out of an authorized $4 million in federal funds for a corridor investment study that indicated a bus rapid transit system, rather than commuter rail, would make the most sense for the corridor, said RFTA chief executive officer Dan Blankenship. At that point, it made sense to spend the remaining $2 million on a regional transportation system instead of using it for more on studies.The money could be diverted only with the further approval of Congress, however. Scott McInnis, then the U.S. representative for western Colorado, helped to get new legislation passed.RFTA will spend $1.97 million on the two park-and-rides, with half going for each project.For their parts, Glenwood Springs committed about $300,000 for its park-and-ride, and Carbondale committed approximately $200,000 in cash and $100,000 in in-kind services such as landscaping, Blankenship said.The Glenwood park-and-ride lot will sit on Wulfsohn Road, on five acres near the municipal operations center and RFTA bus barn. Carbondale’s will be on a one-acre site adjacent to the railroad corridor and Highway 133, Blankenship said.RFTA was able to buy the Glenwood site at a discounted price of $750,000 as part of the city’s preannexation agreement with the Glenwood Meadows commercial and residential project, Blankenship said. Initially, the lot will hold about 60 cars. However, it could be expanded to hold up to 200 later, as further funding allows, Blankenship said.Andrew McGregor, Glenwood Springs’ community development director, is looking forward to the lot’s opening and to the prospect of it expanding down the road.”If the demand is there then we’ll find a way to build the second phase,” he said.The new park-and-ride will provide an additional benefit to Glenwood residents. When it opens, RFTA will use it for staging and turning buses around, and providing a break spot for drivers. In tandem with that, RFTA plans to begin routing buses off Grand Avenue onto Seventh Street, and to the park-and-ride via Midland Avenue.That will provide riders access to Glenwood Meadows, and also restore some level of bus service to the Community Center after the city cut in-town service to it for budget reasons.RFTA has received a grading permit from the city and begun work at the site. It is scheduled to go before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission at 6 p.m. July 26 at City Hall to seek approval for its site design and phasing plan for the project.RFTA currently has agreements with the Glenwood Springs Mall, Wal-Mart and True Value to let bus riders park at their lots, Blankenship said.The new lot will be located to the west of Grand Avenue, getting upvalley commuters out of their cars before they reach a pinch point for traffic jams.In time, RFTA hopes to build park-and-ride facilities beyond Glenwood Springs, to where its Grand Hogback service runs west as far as Rifle.Meanwhile, Carbondale’s project continues to move along. Blankenship said state highway officials are reviewing the lot’s access plan.The state wants a left-turn lane built at the lot, and it also may require a traffic light at Highway 133 and Village Road, which the state would help fund. Those requirements may push the project’s opening to early next year, but RFTA hopes to get much of the other work on the lot done this year to avoid being hit by rising construction prices.The Carbondale lot is flat, and less challenging from a design and construction standpoint than the Glenwood site. The Glenwood location requires retaining walls and fill, as well as a sidewalk down Wulfsohn Road, and eventually a connection with a planned recreation trail. Some of those features may have to wait until the second phase of the project, he said.”We’re just grappling because of the challenges we’ve faced on this site to bring it all in … on budget,” Blankenship said.Blankenship said RFTA has been able to take advantage of the reconstruction of the Midland Avenue-Eighth Street intersection by using fill from that work for the park-and-ride, and keeping it from having to be hauled elsewhere.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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