RFTA rolls ahead with plans to salvage old railroad tracks
RFTA is moving ahead with plans to rip up the railroad tracks between Glenwood Springs and Woody Creek, even though it didn’t close the door on a new proposal for a dinner train.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will solicit bids Aug. 22 for the salvage of tracks and ties. The work will start around mid-October, according to Mike Hermes, RFTA’s director of trails, properties and facilities.
The bus operator’s board of directors decided in a controversial 6-2 vote in April to tear up the tracks despite a plea by rail proponents to keep them intact between Glenwood and Carbondale for possible tourist train service.
RFTA solicited bids last March for dinner train service and spent $25,000 assessing the one proposal it received. That proposal was rejected in April as unrealistic.
Train proponents Kip Wheeler and Jan Girardot forwarded new information about a dinner train proposal to the RFTA board Thursday. While the majority of RFTA board members indicated they wanted to know more about the proposal, they didn’t have the super-majority necessary to open a dialogue.
“We have an obligation to at least entertain the proposal,” said Carbondale Councilman and RFTA board member Scott Chaplin.
But board members Dorothea Farris, who is a Pitkin County commissioner, and Anne Freedman, a Basalt councilwoman, opposed spending time reviewing the proposal. Their primary concern was that the company didn’t submit anything directly to RFTA. It was made through intermediaries ” Wheeler and Girardot.
Freedman said she didn’t want RFTA to review dreams of dinner trains any longer.
“This is not what people voted for when they voted for RFTA,” Freedman said, referring to local jurisdictions’ votes to implement sales taxes to raise revenues for the bus system. “I don’t want to see us spend any more time and money on it.”
Arnie Mordkin, a RFTA board member and Snowmass Village councilman, pressed hard to get the board to accept the new dinner train proposal. Mordkin once vowed that if dinner train proponents didn’t get solid, viable proposals before RFTA when it solicited proposals in March, their opportunity would be lost.
Despite the tough talk, Mordkin wanted to keep the door open for the latest proposal because doing so represented responsible, flexible government, he said.
Mordkin urged Wheeler and Girardot to encourage the new dinner train company to submit its formal proposal as soon as possible “and see what happens.”
RFTA’s board also directed its staff to continue with the plans to salvage the tracks.
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The Glenwood Springs-Rifle sports rivalry goes way back for GSHS baseball coach and former Demons multi-sport student-athlete Eric Nieslanik.