Udall, Bennet and Polis press feds to keep up momentum of Roaring Fork Valley transit project

By Real Aspen
Real AspenMay 12, 2011

U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis — all Colorado Democrats — announced today that they have sent a letter to Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, urging his agency to release funding for the VelociRFTA project in the Roaring Fork Valley in time for the short construction season.

The Federal Transit Administration has identified the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s Veloci-RFTA project, which would create the first-ever rural bus rapid transit line, as a priority to receive $24 million out of a pool of $1.6 billion in transit funds appropriated by Congress this year. But the funding has yet to be made available. The lawmakers believe the bus line is a critical investment in the Roaring Fork Valley’s economy because it will provide one of the most efficient ways to get workers and visitors from town to town.

“With the FY2011 appropriations process now completed, we understand FTA will move forward with awarding capital grants, and we urge you to make this project among the first that you announce,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Veloci-RFTA project would construct stations and improve existing roads for a bus fleet to address growing transit demand and congestion along Highway 82, the only continuous roadway connecting these communities. While the project is “shovel ready,” the challenges of construction work in mountainous regions and the limited season in which to do it, mean that it’s especially important to release the funding soon so that RFTA can fully take advantage of the short construction season, the legislators said.

“Given the uncertainty in federal appropriations, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) has postponed acquisition of the necessary rights-of-way and buses, as well as construction of designated bus stations and lanes, to await confirmation of an FY2011 capital grant,” the lawmakers continued. “Any significant delay in a grant notification may preclude RFTA from beginning substantive project work this season given its geographic location.”

A copy of the letter follows:

Dear Administrator Rogoff:

Thank you for your continued leadership and partnership in making the state of Colorado a national model for how investing in modern public transportation creates jobs, spurs economic development, preserves the environment and improves quality of life. It is important to us that the momentum built in Colorado is not set back by recent spending decisions to reduce New Starts funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 and to rescind funding from FY 2010.

We are therefore writing to encourage you to fully fund the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) award of $24.163 million for the VelociRFTA project in Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado. In addition, we also encourage, given the delayed FY2011 appropriations process and the limited construction season in mountainous regions of our state, the funds be expedited for the VelociRFTA project as it is “shovel ready” and waiting for FTA’s approval.

With the FY2011 appropriations process now completed, we understand FTA will move forward with awarding capital grants, and we urge you to make this project among the first that you announce. Given the uncertainty in federal appropriations, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) has postponed acquisition of the necessary rights-of-way and buses, as well as construction of designated bus stations and lanes, to await confirmation of an FY2011 capital grant. Any significant delay in a grant notification may preclude RFTA from beginning substantive project work this season given its geographic location.

Over the last decade, the RFTA has worked closely with the Colorado Department of Transportation and the FTA to craft a well-designed and cost-effective project, which will demonstrate the value of transit in rural America.

We thank you for your attention to our letter and for your agency’s assistance in the development of the VelociRFTA project.


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