The effort to establish a new regional transportation authority in the Eagle River Valley has been underway since 2020. And now local municipalities are beginning to solicit feedback from residents on a draft intergovernmental agreement that could be submitted to voters in November 2022.
The proposal for a new regional transportation authority aims to better meet the regional transportation needs of the community’s workforce, residents and visitors. Although the current authority, ECO Transit, has been providing this area of service in the community since 1996, regional transit needs have exceeded what the current authority is able to provide.
As proposed, the new authority would not only maintain the current services provided by ECO Transit, but would also seek to improve and expand them.
While Eagle County, the Metropolitan District of Beaver Creek as well as the cities of Avon, Eagle, Gypsum, Minturn, Red Cliff and Vail led this effort, other local stakeholders and organizations participated through various committees. This includes representatives from ECO Transit, Vail Valley Partnership, Eagle Air Alliance and more.
Earlier this year, local leaders set an ambitious timeline for establishing the regional transport authority. Part of that timeline includes a requirement for each participating municipality to hold a minimum of two public hearings on the intergovernmental agreement, which the municipalities have all scheduled for April and May.
Public hearings are currently scheduled as follows:
According to Bill Ray, a consultant hired by local governments to help coordinate the authorities’ effort, the purpose of these hearings is to hear about “residents’ transportation challenges and needs, how they might use improved public transit and expanded, and any concerns they may have about their community participating in a regional transportation authority.
The intergovernmental agreement
At these hearings, the municipalities will present the authority’s draft intergovernmental agreement – “a legal document that sets out the governance, service objectives and other key operational provisions of the RTA”, according to a presentation in the filing. of Avon City Council at its April 26 meeting..
In the current draft of the intergovernmental agreement, parameters and details are established on how the board will operate, sources of funding, service limits, statutory powers and responsibilities, initial plans, procedures keys and authority service objectives.
Among the first things considered in the project are the creation of a free fare zone and additional service to Avon, Vail, Minturn and Beaver Creek as well as increased service on U.S. Highway 6 and to the towns of Dotsero and Leadville. New routes are also offered, including an Eagle-Gypsum Circulator and commuter routes. The project also includes plans to accelerate the transition of zero-emission regional transit service.
These projects align with the authority’s proposed service targets, which in addition to including things like improving service, adding routes and converting to zero-emissions operations, also consider support local air service, regional trail planning and more. Many of these goals were established based on current needs as well as a transit survey conducted in the fall of 2021.
To fund this expansion of services and the new authority, the draft agreement contemplates a combination of sources. This includes using Eagle County’s existing 0.5% transportation sales tax and supplementing it with an additional 0.5% sales and use tax within the jurisdiction. a potential visitor benefit tax of 1% within limits, discretionary member contributions, and federal and state grants.
If voters were presented with the prospect of this new regional transportation authority on the ballot in the upcoming November election, they would be asked to vote on this deal as well as any other tax increases or debt issues. The final version of the agreement is expected to be voted on and approved in August by each participating municipality.
After the public hearings, the agreement will be sent to the Colorado Department of Transportation as well as neighboring jurisdictions for review and comment. The Colorado Department of Transportation must have at least a 90-day comment period for these types of agreements. According to Ray, this should be sent at the end of May.
“When that happens, we will shift our focus more towards community outreach and engagement,” Ray said.
If the group wants to have authority over the November 2022 ballot, it has until July 19 to notify the county clerk of its intention to participate in the election.
To participate in upcoming public hearings, visit each local municipality’s website to view the schedules and agendas of their commission, council and commissioner. Additionally, the authority invites feedback online at EagleCountyRTA.org/feedback.
Journalist Ali Longwell can be reached at [email protected]