Vail yanks buses for X Games, transit issues for the games intact |

Vail yanks buses for X Games, transit issues for the games intact

CHAD ABRAHAMpitkin county correspondent

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority may not be getting as much X Games help from its friends in Vail as planned.With a little more than two weeks to go before the event begins, Vail transit officials told RFTA on Wednesday that they are pulling out drivers and buses they had offered for the event. The agency has relied on Vail’s help to assist with the large crowds during past Winter X Games.The ESPN spectacle runs Jan. 28-31 at Buttermilk. Last year, it drew about 70,000 people. So many came that bars ran out of booze and restaurants ran out of food.”We were in excellent shape until Wednesday,” Kent Blackmer, RFTA’s director of operations, told the agency’s board of directors Thursday.The move has left the Aspen Skiing Co. and ESPN scrambling to find more buses and drivers, Blackmer said. He wasn’t sure why Vail pulled out but hinted that it may be related to shortages in equipment or employees, or both.That was news to Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. He said buses had been hired from Vail and a company that serves Rocky Mountain National Park. Snowmass Village buses will also be in service.He thought Vail may just be a couple of buses short of what was originally offered.”They’re still sending buses,” he said.Another X Games-related issue was a topic of discussion at Thursday’s board meeting. RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship said there were serious safety issues relating to pedestrian crossings and crowding on buses last year. Much of the problem stemmed from the crowd rushing into Aspen for a concert after the day’s last sporting event.This year, Skico has implemented a gap between the day’s final event and the start of the concert to allow more travel time, Blankenship said. Each year, the event becomes more like Woodstock as more and more show up in VW buses and other vehicles from all over the country, he said.”We could still be overrun by people,” Blankenship said.Hanle said he didn’t believe there had been any safety problems related to overcrowding or people crossing Highway 82. But this year, event organizers will use a large number of signs “to discourage any kind of foot traffic down Highway 82, especially since the pedestrian bridge is gone by the golf course.Pitkin County rail line scrappedTransit officials on Thursday killed plans for a tourist train between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, voting instead to pull up the rail lines in the area and sell them for scrap.The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority board of directors’ decision means that after the removal and sale of the line this spring, the last vestiges of the valley’s historic rail system will be a one-mile stretch in Glenwood. It also moves the agency closer to its goal of establishing a valley-long trail along the Highway 82 corridor.The board’s decision came after one of the investors in the proposal said his group had not studied the idea of running a train a shorter distance. Kip Wheeler of Aspen said running an excursion train from Glenwood to the Orrison Distributing center outside Carbondale had been the group’s focus all along. It would have eventually generated $5 million in tourist dollars annually, he said.

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