RFTA

A RFTA bus turns onto Durant Avenue in downtown Aspen on Thursday afternoon.

 

RFTA will receive a share of the $78 million in 2021 COVID-19 relief funding passed recently for rural transit agencies, but just how much will be allocated is still to be determined, CEO Dan Blankenship told RFTA’s board of directors on Thursday.

In 2020, the state’s allocation of CARES Act monies designated for rural transit agencies eligible for Federal Transit Administration Section 5311 funding was about $39 million, of which RFTA was allocated about $8.5 million, Blankenship said.

This year, Colorado’s portion of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, or CRRSAA, is double, at $78.1 million, 2020’s CARES Act funding, according to Blankenship.

“RFTA’s expectation, without as yet hearing anything definite from CDOT, is that it should receive at least as much, if not more, funding from CRRSAA as it did from the CARES Act,” he said following RFTA’s monthly meeting.

“But we will have to wait for (the Colorado Department of Transportation) to finalize its plan for allocating the funding to all of the rural transit agencies in Colorado to know for certain what RFTA’s share is going to be,” he added.

Details on CDOT’s apportionments with regard to relief funding weren’t immediately available Thursday, a spokesperson said.

RFTA’s 2021 budget of $60.2 million reflects $46.6 million in operating expenses, $8 million in capital and $5.5 million in debt service.

Blankenship said the forthcoming federal grant funding could help offset some operating costs in 2021, as financial impacts from the ­pandemic continue.

Last week, Gov. Jared Polis’ office announced that CDOT had received approval from the Colorado Transportation Commission to spend $134 million in federal stimulus money for transportation as part of the $900 billion COVID relief package that included $10 billion in surface transportation stimulus.

Pedestrian crossing project

The board on Thursday unanimously approved RFTA to cover a $2.27 million shortfall on the 27th Street pedestrian crossing in Glenwood Springs.

Originally budgeted at about $8.5 million, with RFTA expected to contribute half, or $4.2 million, updated cost estimates, construction management expenses, an inflation increase and added contingency bumped the estimated project cost to about $10.1 million, according to information provided in the meeting packet.

The project has two facets and involves a pedestrian crossing under Highway 82 from east to west and another crossing under 27th Street that will run north to south, Blankenship said.

RFTA staff had recommended, and the board approved, repurposing some revenue that wasn’t used for service improvements to bridge the current estimated funding gap of the pedestrian project.

The 27th Street project is in its final design phase, and expected to be put out to bid by July 2021, with a targeted completion date of October 2022.

Each year the project fails to get under contract could raise the cost by approximately 4% due to inflation, according to RFTA.

About $3.05 million in federal and state grants have been secured and the project aspires to improve the safety of pedestrian, bike, transit and Rio Grande trail users. The city of Glenwood Springs is contributing $500,000.

Thursday’s board meeting was the last with Art Riddile as RFTA chair; after two years he is ineligible to serve another term, RFTA’s legal counsel Paul Taddune said. Riddile, mayor of New Castle, was thanked for his chairmanship, which began in January 2019.

Dan Richardson, mayor of Carbondale, was nominated and approved to replace Riddile as RFTA board chair. Vice Chair Markey Butler’s term as mayor of Snowmass Village ended in November and so did her time on the RFTA board. Butler’s successor as vice chair is Basalt Mayor Bill Kane.

Nicole Schoon will serve as secretary and Michael Yang is treasurer and budget officer. Both are RFTA staffers.

Madeleine Osberger is a contributing editor of the Aspen Daily NewsShe can be reached at madski@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @Madski99