Regional transportation authority passes in all but Gypsum
Voters in unincorporated Eagle County, Beaver Creek, Vail, Avon, Minturn, Red Cliff and Eagle give measure green light
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 approved the measure. Only Gypsum has a majority of votes against the authority’s formation.
Final preliminary vote totals were released just before 2 a.m. Wednesday. Results show voters in unincorporated Eagle County, Beaver Creek, Vail, Avon, Minturn, Red Cliff and Eagle approving the formation of the RTA.
Voters from unincorporated parts of Eagle County, the Beaver Creek Metro District as well as the towns of Vail and Avon had to vote in favor of the measure in order 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 the voters supportive of a grassroots, business-led initiative designed to benefit our workforce and our economy, and our environment,” said Chris Romer, president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership. Romer was involved throughout the authority’s formation process through its various committees and served as the registered agent for a political issue committee to support a “Yes on Eagle Valley Transit” campaign.
The ballot measure asked residents in 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 the existing half-cent Eagle County sales tax — which currently supports ECO Transit — to fund the new authority, and would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. The new tax is expected to bring over $15 million in the first year, allowing the authority to bring a slew of transit enhancements and upgrades to the region.
Specifically, the intergovernmental agreement outlines several service goals including new and increased service routes around the county, the acceleration of fleets to zero-emissions vehicles, additional commuter routes, a fare-free zone in the upper valley as well as providing a sustainable funding source for the 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 kicked off last year, this group of eight governments — as well as existing transit agencies and community organizations — saw that the needs of the community had vastly changed since then and that ECO Transit could no longer keep up.
It was the goal of this group to close the gap in the county’s transit demands as well as meet countywide climate action goals around greenhouse gas emissions (including the electrification of local fleets).
“The new RTA has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life in our valley,” said Vail Mayor Kim Langmaid.
The success of the ballot measure, Romer said, was due to this collaboration and regional effort.
“When we come together collaboratively to build a plan and make a plan and put that plan forth and communicate that plan out to the voters, that people will recognize that there’s a small price to pay to make a meaningful impact on the livability in Eagle County,” Romer said. “This one hits every aspect of our community and benefits every aspect, from seasonal workers to year-round (residents) to second-home owners to visitors, to our kids, our seniors; it really helps everybody. So I’m really excited that the voters were able to recognize that.”
Eagle County Commissioner Matt Scherr said that the positive votes for the authority reflected not only collaboration but also clear communication of the need for improved and holistic mobility.
“They did a good job of communicating what that would really mean for our community, and that did come mostly from the business community, which is important because they understand the real need for transit as infrastructure for our local economy,” Scherr said. “They communicated it and apparently, people agreed.”
Avon Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes commented that the new authority is “a long time coming,” and will benefit everyone, including “people who have never ridden public transit and never will.”
The benefits, Smith Hymes added are numerous, claiming its expected passage as a “huge win for the local economy, for locals, for visitors and for the climate.”
As Gypsum appears poised to not join this new authority, Romer said that the door is not closed for the town.
“I certainly wish and would have hoped that we would have gotten all eight of the communities to pass this,” Romer said. “I’m hopeful that when they are ready, the RTA will be ready to welcome them in and truly build a completely valley-wide operation that helps everybody. We’ll move forward and make the case and welcome them in when they’re ready.”
While the expected passage of these ballot initiatives in seven Eagle County communities is a big step forward toward solving mobility challenges, it’s only the beginning.
“It’s the first step and we’ve still got a lot of work to do with the RTA, but that was the big critical step,” County Commissioner Matt Scherr.
“Now the real work begins to ensure the financial resources are used to create a public transportation system that benefits the people who travel up and down the valley on a regular basis,” Langmaid said.
This story is from VailDaily.com.
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