RFTA honored as ‘Champion of Change’ for BRT project | PostIndependent.com

RFTA honored as ‘Champion of Change’ for BRT project

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Dawn Chase Special to the Post IndependentGlenwood Springs City Councilman Ted Edmonds was one of four local elected officials from the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority board to travel to Washington for a ceremony held Tuesday. RFTA was recognized as a Champion of Change for Transportation Innovation by the Obama administration.

Representatives of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority were honored in Washington, D.C., Tuesday at a Champions of Change ceremony.

The local transit agency was chosen as a White House Champion of Change Transportation Innovator for its planned bus rapid transit system, dubbed VelociRFTA, the first rural system of its kind in the nation, according to Dan Blankenship, RFTA CEO.

The agency, which put itself forward as a nominee, is one of about 15 to receive the honor for transportation initiatives.

The Champion of Change program was created as part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different sector is highlighted, and champions are recognized for the work they’re doing to serve and strengthen their communities.

RFTA is funding the trip to Washington for its representatives. Attending were Blankenship and Dawn Chase, RFTA communications director, along with several members of the RFTA board of directors: Glenwood Springs Councilman Ted Edmonds, Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt, Aspen Councilman Steve Skadron, and Snowmass Village Councilman John Wilkinson.

Whitsitt, a longtime RFTA board member who spearheaded a 2008 election campaign that led to local approval of a tax measure to help fund VelociRFTA, also participated in a panel discussion with other recipients.

The ceremony was held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next door to the White House, Blankenship said. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who was in Carbondale to visit a VelociRFTA station construction project, was also expected to attend.

The $42.6 million VelociRFTA, to debut in fall 2013, is a rubber-tired transit system that has been compared to commuter train service, offering streamlined travel on the Highway 82 corridor with buses that run on compressed natural gas. The system will offer a host of technological upgrades. Station construction for the system is now under way.

RFTA received a $24.9 million federal grant last year for the system and recently learned it would receive another $6.4 million in grants this year for bus purchases and a facility upgrade.

“I think one of the reasons we’re getting the grants is we’re proving we can manage these projects and also that there’s a lot of community support for what we do,” said Blankenship, who has been at the RFTA helm for 23 years. “It’s an honor to receive recognition from the higher levels of our government for being a transportation innovator.”


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