The RFTA land grab attempt |

The RFTA land grab attempt

Hal SundinPost IndependentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
As I See itHal Sundin

I could hardly believe my eyes a month ago when I read the article in this newspaper headed “Road option out for railroad corridor.” Where does the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority get the idea that it has the right to play “dog-in-the-manger” with the portion of the railroad corridor that lies within the city of Glenwood Springs and prohibit Glenwood Springs from ever using any portion of the corridor to deal with its future transportation needs? RFTA needs to recognize that it is only one member of the Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority (RFRHA), the agency that holds title to the corridor, and as such has no more say on the issue than the city of Glenwood Springs. It also needs to remember that the city of Glenwood Springs contributed nearly half a million dollars toward the purchase of the corridor.Furthermore, RFTA needs to refresh its memory regarding the terms of the agreements pertaining to the purchase and the management of the railroad corridor. In 1995, an amendment to an intergovernmental agreement for the purchase and public ownership of the Aspen Branch of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad right of way provides that “If any one government wishes to utilize all or a portion of the property for a new or different use within the jurisdiction of that government, it may do so … if it can prove and insure that the use will not preclude any desired future use from occurring, to the satisfaction of the board of directors.” In addition, the agreement that RFRHA entered into with Great Outdoors Colorado in January 2001 as a condition for a conservation grant from GOCO toward the purchase of the corridor prevents any use of the corridor that would “significantly impair or interfere with any trail on the corridor or the conservation values of the property,” with the specific exception of the Glenwood bypass. This was in recognition of a January 1998 resolution of the Glenwood Springs City Council that a Highway 82 “pass-through” from I-70 to the south end of the city on the railroad corridor is one alternative to providing a necessary bypass, which also committed the city to acquire properties needed to provide a 100-foot corridor width.As other well-qualified engineers have pointed out, a 100-foot-wide corridor should be sufficient to allow construction of a four-lane highway, a commuter railroad and a trail such as the trail along I-70 through Glenwood Canyon (though it would probably be preferable if some separation between the trail and the other uses could be provided on property between the corridor and the Roaring Fork River). But let’s not lose sight of the reality of the enormous cost of constructing a railroad suitable for high-speed commuter trains – probably half a billion dollars, and the fact that the potential ridership will never even come close to what would be needed to cover operating costs.And finally, we need to put all of the arguments that have been raised favoring or opposing (or even questioning the need for) potential options for dealing with steadily increasing auto and truck traffic on Grand Avenue into proper perspective. (An article in the March 3 Post Independent on a study projecting that within 20 years traffic will be so bad that it will take over a half an hour to drive through town throughout the day should remove any doubts about need.) We must all be aware that a detailed in-depth environmental impact statement is a prerequisite for any project in which federal funds are involved. The purpose of the EIS is to identify the “preferred alternative” that would best satisfy all pertinent issues, based on a comparative analysis for all realistic alternatives, of environmental and socioeconomic effects, during both the construction and the operating life of the project, in addition to cost and effectiveness – a process that must be open to public participation and comment. Until that time, all opinions and comments will have no effect. And above all, RFTA should keep hands off and refrain from trying to preclude one of the potential alternatives that should be included in the EIS.- Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.

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