Eagle Valley officials want greater say in transportation planning | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley officials want greater say in transportation planning

Government tracker, June 17.

Group: A “mayors and managers” meeting with the Eagle County Commissioners.

Present: Elected officials included commissioners Peter Runyon, Sara Fisher and Jon Stavney, Avon Mayor Ron Wolfe and Vail Mayor Dick Cleveland.

What they talked about: Giving the Vail Valley portion of Eagle County a greater say in state transportation issues. There’s a lingering feeling on this side of Eagle County that the Roaring Fork Valley has been getting a disproportionate share of state transportation money for the last several years.

That could be due to a couple of things: The Colorado Highway 82 plan has been finished for several years now, meaning projects there are “shovel ready.” There’s also the fact that Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland has for the last several years been the chairman of the “transportation planning region” that includes Eagle and Pitkin counties.

In an effort to get a louder voice for this part of the reason, Runyon has been nominated as chairman of the planning group. The vote will come at an Aug. 17 meeting.

But there’s a bigger problem: With the state’s budget in a several-year slump, the Colorado Department of Transportation doesn’t have much money to spend. Eagle County’s share of a “regional priority” budget adds up to about $500,000 per year for the next six years.

The elected officials agreed they would work to speak with one voice on whatever projects might get money.

Issue: A report from the county’s “Transit Action Group,” which has been looking at the future of the ECO bus system, among other topics.

Who they talked to: Consultant Don Cohen told the group that ECO, which last year required a large infusion of money from the county as well as rate hikes and service cuts to remain solvent, needs to find a way to stand on more stable financial ground.

“ECO’s finances are OK, but under pressure,” Cohen said.

The solution, he said, is some sort of change in the bus system’s structure, to either a more independent agency, or a fully independent “authority.” Any change would have to be approved by voters, who approved ECO in its current form in 1995.

What’s next? Cohen urged the local officials to start work now on a package to take to voters in 2012.

“If you continue the way you are, you’re screwed,” he said.

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