Trauger column: 2019 – The year of working together for the region
January 22, 2019
Ah. The start of a new year. A time to reflect on the past, to plan, to look at the big picture and to see what's on the horizon for the year.
According to the Colorado Municipal League's State of Our Cities and Towns survey, reported in the CML newsletter from Jan. 18, 2019:
"The greatest challenges municipalities face are unfunded street maintenance and improvement needs, lack of affordable housing, tight labor markets, unfunded water/wastewater improvement needs, increased health insurance costs, and increased demand for municipal services."
The article goes on to say, "On average, unfunded street maintenance and improvement needs was the most common major challenge across years."
Hmmm. No surprise to those of us who live in the Roaring Fork Valley. And guess what? This doesn't only apply to municipalities.
So, what has been done and what is in the works in our valley relating to a few of these issues? Here is a sample of what is going on in our valley.
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Street and Roadways
Now that the Grand Avenue Bridge project is behind us, the city of Glenwood has turned it sights south. The 27th Street Bridge project in Glenwood is underway thanks to almost $2 million in grant funding from the State Energy and Mineral Impact Grant, Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District and the Federal Highway Administration.
The South Midland project in Glenwood received a huge push forward with the award of a $7 million federal BUILD grant.
An easement agreement was finalized with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority for crossing the Rio Grande Trail to connect to Highway 82 for the proposed South Bridge project, saving approximately $25 million.
Glenwood Springs City Council agreed to put a ballot measure before city voters in April to increase funding for city streets and alleys by an additional three-quarters of a percent sales tax designated for street and alley reconstruction along with that of underlying infrastructure.
The Castle Creek Bridge and Hallam Street corridor improvement projects, a collaborative effort between the city of Aspen, Colorado Department of Transportation and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority was recently completed, creating a better experience for pedestrians and bicyclists. It also greatly improved two transit stops.
The controversial Six Canyon complex of 116 units along Highway 6 is well under way, as are the first 85 units of the Lofts at Red Mountain in Glenwood Meadows. An additional 96 units in phase II of the Lofts is slated for completion in early 2020.
Approvals were granted by the Carbondale Board of Trustees for Sopris Lodge, a 78-unit senior living facility. This approval was contingent on an agreement with RFTA.
Basalt Vista, a unique 27-unit partnership spearheaded by Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork along with the Roaring Fork School District and Pitkin County, is scheduled to start coming on line in March.
An application by Aspen Skiing Co. to build a 148-bedroom workforce housing project has been submitted to the town of Basalt.
RFTA is poised to start work on improvements this year, particularly in the downvalley area, with expanded hours for the Carbondale Circulator; subsidizing WE-Cycle, a popular means of last-mile transportation in the Carbondale and Glenwood markets; expanding BRT service on weekends between Glenwood and Aspen, and adding local service after 8:15 p.m. Also in the works is planning for a grade-separated pedestrian crossing at 27th Street and South Glen Avenue in Glenwood.
Perhaps the best news for some is expanded Hogback service between Glenwood and Rifle. Monday, Garfield County commissioners provided an additional $760,000 in funding toward that effort this year.
Mountain Family Health Centers has opened its new Integrated Health Care Center with the assistance of Pitkin County and Aspen Valley Hospital. The center will provide primary, behavioral and dental care to low-income valley residents.
Valley View Hospital has joined Valley Health Alliance, a partnership of employers and health care providers in the valley. Other participants are Aspen Valley Hospital, Aspen Skiing Co., Pitkin County, Mountain Family Health Centers and the city of Aspen.
I know I have missed countless ongoing projects and collaborative efforts. My point in highlighting many of these is simply this: We are a region of many needs — and many are shared needs. It is difficult for any one body, whether it is county, city, school district, transit authority or health care provider to address these issues on their own. This is also a region of many resources, and by working together, whether it is in partnership or simply lending support, we are making things happen.
I understand that not everyone agrees that these are good things. I understand the desire to keep our valley as it was in the '50s, '60s or '70s. The reality is that we live in an exceptional area, and as my late friend Leslie Bethel would say, "Aren't we the lucky ones."
Others also want to be "the lucky ones," and so we continue to see growth and change. Putting our resources and heads together, we, as a region, can continue to be a great place to live, work and play. But it takes collaboration and partnership.
It looks like we are off to a good start for 2019.
Kathryn Trauger lives in and writes from her hometown of Glenwood Springs. She has served the community as a member of Glenwood Springs City Council and chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission. She currently serves as the chair of the city's Financial Advisory Board and as an associate member of the Garfield County Board of Adjustment. Her column, Perspective, appears monthly in the Post Independent. She may be reached at email@example.com or at 970-379-4849.
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