Collaboration needed for transportation funding

Feb 9, 2016

Carbondale Mayor Stacey Patch Bernot, Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron, Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman, Glenwood Springs Mayor Mike Gamba, New Castle Town Councilor Frank Breslin, and Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson sit on a panel focused on the future of regional transportation.
Credit Alycin Bektesh / Aspen Public Radio

Throughout the Roaring Fork Valley “making transportation better” can mean really different things. In Rifle and Silt it means snowplows. In Glenwood Springs it means maintaining foot traffic options over Grand Avenue.

At a day-long transportation forum last week, community leaders from across the Roaring Fork Valley met to talk about the challenges and opportunities for improving transportation. But, with such a varied group of interests, solutions don’t always match up.

Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot says while communities from Parachute to Aspen all unite to seek grants and to fund programs like the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority… each jurisdiction is facing down it’s own reality.

“Some of the things that Mayor Skadron talks about are Aspen lala-land kind of things,” she said as part of a panel discussion options for the future of transportation in the region.

Shailen Bhatt, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, says “smart” technology such as lane assist and real time traffic monitors in every car will be at the forefront of the transportation solutions of the future. And, that multi-modal infrastructure… rideshares, bikeshares, walking paths and mass transit, will also all play their part.

While Bernot agrees that new technology will lead to new solutions, she  says it’s important to recognize that a new mother has different travel needs than a business commuter, or that workers with tools or heavy equipment job are not going to be commuting with WE-cycle.

Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson is on the board of the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District. At the forum, he points out the District helped build a new roundabout in Carbondale. Samson says collaborations are the most attractive grant applicants.

“By joining your forces and working together those grant applications look a lot more enticing to us than each municipality going for their own.”

CDOT faces a stalled budget and predictions of future congestion increasing exponentially in the roaring fork Valley. Solutions discussed last week for the Western Slope include high speed rail, toll roads, and and more  of bus rapid transit, which director Bhatt says is it’s own best cheerleader.

“The best advertisement for transit is when you are sitting in a car by yourself and the bus goes by and people are laughing and having a martini. Like, why am I not on there?”