Rifle voters to decide future of Hogback bus route | PostIndependent.com

Rifle voters to decide future of Hogback bus route

RIFLE – The Roaring Fork Transit Authority may get its wish after all.After years of trying to get the city of Rifle on board to help finance the Grand Hogback bus route that runs from Glenwood Springs to Rifle, city council members are willing to give it a shot.But it will be up to the voters.At an informational workshop with RFTA officials Wednesday night, the city agreed to have city staff draft an ordinance asking voters if a transportation taxing district should be formed that would collect the taxes and contract with RFTA annually as opposed to becoming a member of RFTA’s district.According to Mayor Keith Lambert, that scenario would give the city more control over the proposed 0.2 percent sales tax increase to help fund the bus service.”A transportation district would give us the ability to control our own destiny,” Lambert said. “In other municipalities, RFTA is its own taxing district and we’ve never been willing to go that far.”Dan Blankenship, executive director of RFTA, pointed out that the service last year had carried 57,000 riders on the Grand Hogback route between Glenwood Springs and Rifle – a more than 15 percent increase from last year.”Right now, that ridership is up more than 10 percent so far in June, ” Blankenship said. “The biggest percentage of that is people going to and coming back from Glenwood Springs.”The Grand Hogback service was started in April 2002 and RFTA has been asking Rifle to join for at least two years. Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and New Castle are currently members of RFTA – Silt and Rifle are not.In 2004, RFTA approached the city about joining, but council members declined because of other tax increase issues on the ballot at that time, including a city-wide lodging tax and a mill levy override by the Re-2 School District. Last year, the city turned RFTA down in favor of getting a 1-cent sales tax passed to help fund parks and recreation.Even if Rifle was to enter into an Intergovernmental Agreement with RFTA and put a transportation district question on the November general election ballot this year, Lambert questioned whether there would be enough time.”We’re hesitant to enter into something this close to an election,” Lambert said. “What bothers me is, is it a doable project in the next three months before the election? I’m questioning just the time frame, not the direction it’s taking.”While Blankenship agreed that it might be better to have more time to put something on the ballot, he assured council that a campaign could be put together in a timely fashion.At the end of the hour-long discussion, city council members agreed to direct staff to move forward with an IGA and draft an ordinance that would go for first reading at the next Aug. 16 council meeting.

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