Roaring Fork Valley’s credibility is on the line over transit plan |

Roaring Fork Valley’s credibility is on the line over transit plan

The Roaring Fork Valley’s best chance to secure federal funding for mass transit is with an expanded bus system rather than light rail, an official with a high-powered lobbying firm said Thursday.

Becky Weber, managing director of the Washington, D.C., office of BKSH Associates told officials with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority that switching gears to seek federal funds for a light rail system rather than a bus rapid transit system could be disastrous.

Colorado’s Congressional delegation is aware the Roaring Fork Valley is

investigating expansion of its bus system, Weber said. Switching the focus to light rail

will cause the Congressional delegation to question if local officials know what they

are doing.

“It will build a certain level of uncertainty, a lack of confidence,” said Weber.

She offered her insight when RFTA’s board of directors gathered at a retreat

Thursday to discuss the agency’s future. Expanded service called bus rapid transit

has been contemplated for months. Snowmass Village councilman and RFTA board

member John Wilkinson wondered if the agency should resurrect consideration of

light rail as well.

Weber said local government “lost credibility” with Colorado’s Congressional

delegation while debating a commuter rail system in the late 1990s. The local

governments were laying the foundation to secure funding for a valleywide rail

system. Then, Pitkin County citizens voted in 1998 to stop the county from spending

any more money on train studies.

The Roaring Fork Valley has regained its credibility with the Congressional

delegation since that 1990s debacle. But to switch gears again would be “like starting

over,” according to Weber.

“You can’t afford a second loss of credibility,” she said.

Even without a switch back to rail, securing federal funding for mass transit will be

difficult, she said. The Federal Transit Administration has significantly scaled back the

funds it awards to projects. Her advice was to secure a commitment for a large share

of local funding before approaching the Congressional delegation for help acquiring

federal dollars.

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