Some second guess decision by RFTA to protect rail corridor | PostIndependent.com
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Some second guess decision by RFTA to protect rail corridor

John Gardner
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority board of directors’ decision to protect the rail corridor for future rail or a fixed guideway bus system, consumed most of the conversation at City Council’s pre-meeting on Thursday morning.

RFTA’s board voted unanimously last week to preserve the old rail corridor through Glenwood Springs and the Roaring Fork Valley.

Proponents of an alternate route for Highway 82 through Glenwood Springs say that the rail corridor is the best viable option for a new highway.



In an attempt to explain RFTA’s decision, RFTA board chairman and Glenwood Springs Mayor Bruce Christensen told other Glenwood councilmembers that the decision to preserve the existing rail corridor did not prohibit future construction of a highway in the valley.

“It doesn’t preclude there being construction of a highway,” he said. “It just says that you can’t risk severing the corridor for the highway.”



Christensen said that if any part of the rail corridor is severed, the entire 35 miles of rail corridor is in jeopardy of being taken over by adjacent property owners. And, that the property was purchased collectively by the communities in the Roaring Fork Valley because of its value for possible rail use.

“RFTA has an absolute responsibility to protect that corridor,” he said.

However, councilwoman Shelley Kaup did not agree with Christensen’s explanation, saying that RFTA “closed the door” on the discussion.

“I think RFTA needs to keep the conversation open and work with us cooperatively on solving transportation issues,” Kaup said.

“[RFTA] looked at the [Corridor Optimization Plan] and slammed the door shut,” she said.

Christensen said that RFTA was approached by Glenwood Springs Engineer Mike McDill and asked to support the corridor optimization plan, which included plans for either a two-lane or four-lane highway to be built along the Roaring Fork River corridor.

“The RFTA board supported the two-lane and four-lane highway possibility,” he said. “But they wanted to protect the sanctity of the rail corridor.”

McDill said that it was his recollection that RFTA did give their support to the corridor optimization plan but that protecting the rail corridor was vital.

“It would not make sense to the community to do anything to jeopardize the community’s investment in the RFTA corridor,” McDill said.

Two sections of the corridor between Eighth Street and 23rd Street in Glenwood Springs, along the Roaring Fork River, would have to be built on top of the existing rail corridor. Christensen said that it was not in the best interest of the entire valley to jeopardize the corridor by building on top of it just to move Highway 82 from downtown Glenwood Springs.

“Why would we risk something so important to the whole valley by building a highway on this section of the rail corridor,” he said.

But Kaup said that was not her impression of the decision that was made.

“The rail corridor has always been seen as a transportation corridor for Glenwood Springs for the future,” Kaup said. “Are we completely limited on what that can be used for?”

She said that no one wants to threaten the rail bank, but “I don’t think we have to limit it to only trails,” she said.

Christensen said that he’d received several messages from residents, most of which were in support of protecting the rail.

Ralph Trapani, a member of the Glenwood Springs Transportation Commission and a retired Colorado Department of Transportation engineer, said in an interview that the transportation commission had not had an opportunity to discuss the matter as of Thursday, but that he’s heard only positive feedback from residents about RFTA’s decision.

“I’ve gotten a lot of calls and heard a lot of comments,” Trapani said. “And every one was positive on the need to secure the regional asset of the regional rail corridor.”

jgardner@postindependent.com


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