Trail efforts get $1 million boost |

Trail efforts get $1 million boost

An additional $1 million in federal trail funding will help pay to complete the last leg of a 36-mile route from Aspen to Carbondale, and may speed up the start of work near Glenwood Springs.U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, said Friday that a spending bill that passed in the House of Representatives included the funding. The bill is expected to pass the Senate soon and then head to President Bush for his signature.The money will go toward completing a 4-mile stretch of the Rio Grande Trail from Catherine Store Road to Hooks Lane between Carbondale and Basalt next year.The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is building the trail, which the RFTA board hopes to have running from Glenwood Springs to Aspen by 2010.RFTA executive director Dan Blankenship said the funding request survived a competitive congressional appropriation process.”This was certainly a huge boost in our effort to get the trail done as rapidly as possible and within a time frame that has been established by the RFTA board of directors,” he said.RFTA has about $7.5 million in trail work remaining and had about $5 million in funding identified before the additional $1 million was secured. “If we were going to get it done on that timetable we needed to obtain revenue from other sources, so this $1 million that has been appropriated will bring us closer to that goal.”It also should let RFTA begin trail work between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale in 2006, rather than 2007 as had been planned. RFTA first wants to focus on building a trail between the Buffalo Valley Inn area and the turnoff to the Westbank subdivision. Currently, the only way for nonmotorists to travel that section is via Highway 82.”That’s a real safety hazard there for cyclists and pedestrians and so forth,” Blankenship said. Before work can begin, however, RFTA has to decide whether to agree to a proposal to let an excursion train operate between Glenwood Springs and Orrison Distributing.The trail is being built on the old Rio Grande rail corridor. RFTA estimates that if it can’t tear up the tracks south of Glenwood Springs, it would cost an extra $850,000 to build the trail next to the tracks in narrow pinch points along the rail corridor.Another hurdle for the excursion train could be liability insurance. Union Pacific is requiring $25 million in coverage, but Blankenship said it’s possible that amount could be negotiated down.The RFTA board probably will make a decision on the train in January or February, Blankenship said.He said RFTA is grateful to Salazar, U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Boulder, and others in Colorado’s congressional delegation for their work in securing the trail funding.Blankenship said the stretch of trail running from Carbondale to Catherine Store has proven to be a big success since its opening, providing a chance for kids and families to get some exercise without worrying about trucks and other traffic.”People are just loving it,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext.

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