Grand County moves forward on transportation plan | SkyHiNews.com

Grand County moves forward on transportation plan

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com

Passengers board Amtrak's California Zephyr in Granby in this file photo. Amtrak has told local officials it might be willing to expand passenger service to Grand County. However, ti take full advantage of that the county would need a transportation system capable of distributing passengers to other towns after they arrive here.

Grand County Planning and Zoning will move forward with developing a request for proposal to develop a transportation plan for Grand County.

A transportation advisory committee, comprised of community, business and transportation interests, met on Thursday morning, April 9, to discuss the scope of the RFP.

Officials hope to establish a "backbone" transit system that could ferry both visitors and residents between communities. Additional community or business-managed "spur" systems could then connect to the system.

The committee also hopes to improve the interconnectivity of communities through rail, trails and airports.

“It seems like we’ve always reached that kind of point to make a decision and for whatever reason it has kind of fallen to the wayside.”Bill GrayGrand County Senior Planner

The idea of countywide transit is nothing new.

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Numerous transportation plans and analyses have mulled the possibility of a transit system in the past.

"It seems like we've always reached that kind of point to make a decision and for whatever reason it has kind of fallen to the wayside," Senior Planner Bill Gray said.

More recently, the Grand County Economic Development Advisory Committee suggested that a transit system could possibly foster economic development, which led to a transportation roundtable in August 2014.

This year, the Grand County Board of Commissioners included funding for the RFP in the planning and zoning budget, Gray said.

During the meeting, representatives discussed the possible organization of such a transit system, potential funding avenues and the breadth of services to be offered.

Planes, trains and …

Lance Gutersohn, who helped secure funding to develop the RFP, said rail service and airports should be crucial components to any transportation plan that the county develops.

"We had an incredible conversation this week with Amtrak, who is so ready to do whatever we ask of them, which is a totally different situation than we've ever seen before," Gutersohn said.

He added that the state's transportation plan includes adding more regular rail service to Grand County.

To take advantage of that, Gutersohn said the county must have a transportation system in place to circulate Amtrak passengers throughout the county.

The committee also discussed possible funding for a transit system.

Kremmling Town Manager Mark Campbell said a countywide sales tax increase of 1 percent could bring in around $3 million per year, with a majority of the funding coming from tourists and visitors.

Some of that revenue could be a secure source of funding for Headwaters Trails Alliance, which oversees initiatives to manage and improve trails in the county, with a portion also going toward a backbone transit system.

Gutersohn said cost estimates for a limited backbone system were around $2 million per year, excluding startup costs.

Community buy-in

The committee also discussed soliciting budgeted funding from communities.

Currently, the county has a $100,000 budgeted toward a consultant, though Assistant County Manager Ed Moyer said he'd like to see some of that money saved for future phases of the project.

Gray suggested that the RFP solicit pilot projects that could be initiated quickly, with other parts of the plan being implemented later.

"Obviously other transit systems have become successful by simply just starting," Gray said.

Gray said he hoped to have the RFP completed by April 24 and hire a consultant by the end of May.

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