Regional transport authority passes in all but gypsum

Election judges work to check and count ballots on Election Day Tuesday in Eagle. A team of bipartisan judges helps ensure that every vote is counted correctly.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

EAGLE COUNTY — Eagle County is getting a new regional transportation authority, but Gypsum won’t have a seat at the table after voters across the county approve the measure. Only Gypsum has a majority vote against the authority formation.

The final preliminary vote totals were released just before 2 a.m. Wednesday. The results show that voters in unincorporated Eagle County, Beaver Creek, Vail, Avon, Minturn, Red Cliff and Eagle approve of the formation of the RTA.

Voters in the unincorporated parts of Eagle County, the metropolitan district of Beaver Creek as well as the cities of Vail and Avon had to vote in favor of the measure for a new authority to be formed. However, voters in four other county municipalities – Minturn, Red Cliff, Gypsum and Eagle – must also approve the measure to be included in the new authority.

“We are thrilled to see voters supporting a local, business-led initiative designed to benefit our workforce, our economy and our environment,” said Chris Romer, president and CEO of the Vail Valley. Partnership. Romer was involved throughout the process of forming authority through his various committees and was the registered agent of a committee on political matters. to support a “Yes on Eagle Valley Transit” campaign.

The ballot measure called for residents of the eight communities to form the new Eagle Valley Regional Transportation Authority with a half-cent sales tax.

This half-cent sales tax would be combined with Eagle County’s existing half-cent sales tax — which currently supports ECO Transit — to fund the new authority and would take effect Jan. 1. 2023. The new tax is expected to bring in more than $15 million in the first year, allowing the authority to make a host of transit improvements and upgrades in the region.

Specifically, the intergovernmental agreement sets out several service goals, including new and increased service routes in the county, accelerating fleets to zero-emission vehicles, additional commuter routes, a toll-free zone in the upper valley as well as a sustainable source of funding. for Eagle County Airport.

The last time voters were asked to form a regional transit authority was in 1996, which led to the formation of ECO Transit. However, in an effort launched last year, this group of eight governments – along with existing transit agencies and community organizations – found that the needs of the community had changed significantly since then and that ECO Transit would not could no longer follow.

The goal of this group was to close the gap between county transit demands and meet county-wide climate action goals for greenhouse gas emissions (including the electrification of local fleets).

“The new RTA has the potential to significantly improve the quality of life in our valley,” said Vail Mayor Kim Langmaid.

The success of the electoral measure, Romer said, was due to this collaboration and regional effort.

“When we come together collaboratively to develop a plan, develop a plan, present that plan and communicate it to constituents, people will recognize that there is a small price to pay to have a significant impact on livability in the county. of Eagle. “, said Romer. “This one touches all aspects of our community and benefits all aspects, from seasonal workers to year-round (residents) to owners of second homes to visitors, our children, our seniors; it really helps everyone, so I’m really glad that voters were able to recognize that.

Eagle County Commissioner Matt Scherr said the upvotes for the authority reflected not only collaboration, but also clear communication of the need for enhanced, holistic mobility.

“They did a good job of communicating what it would really mean for our community, and it was mostly from the business community, which is important because they understand the real need for public transit as infrastructure for our local economy. “Scherr said. “They communicated it and apparently people accepted.”

Avon Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes said the new authority is “a long time coming” and will benefit everyone, including “people who have never used public transport and never will. “.

The benefits, added Smith Hymes, are many, saying its expected passage is “a huge win for the local economy, for locals, for visitors and for the climate”.

While Gypsum appears poised not to join this new authority, Romer said the door is not closed for the city.

“I certainly wish and would have hoped that we would have gotten all eight communities to embrace this,” Romer said. “I hope when they are ready, the RTA will be ready to welcome them and really build a valley-wide operation that helps everyone. We will go ahead, make the case and welcome them when they are ready.

While the expected adoption of these ballot initiatives in seven Eagle County communities is a big step toward addressing mobility issues, it’s only the beginning.

“This is the first step and we still have a lot of work to do with the RTA, but this was the big critical step,” County Commissioner Matt Scherr said.

“Now the real work begins to ensure that financial resources are used to create a public transport system that benefits people who regularly travel through the valley,” Langmaid said.

This story comes from VailDaily.com.