June 12, 2008

Commissioners support permanent Pine Junction park-n-Ride
By Linda Bjorkland - Correspondent

The Riders 285 Coalition received Park County commissioners' support at their June 5 meeting in the form of a resolution supporting the coalition's efforts for a permanent Regional Transportation District park-n-Ride at Pine Junction.

The proposed cancellation of the U Route, which goes from Pine Junction down to the Belleview station in the Denver Tech Center, is also opposed by the coalition, but it only recently learned of that proposed closure, and it wasn't part of the resolution, Riders 285 Coalition President Pam Beckhorn later told The Flume.

For the time being, the closure of the current park-n-Ride at Pine Junction is off the table, she said. At one time RTD had been considering closing that park-n-Ride last Nov. 1, but it decided not to after a considerable showing of support for the park-n-Ride.

But a new, permanent park-n-Ride will be needed in three to five years, when the Colorado Department of Transportation widens U.S. 285 at Pine Junction, so the coalition is pushing for a permanent park-n-Ride on RTD-owned land nearby, near Hutchison Lumber.

The commissioners voted unanimously to support that idea.

The U Route

The closure of the U Route is very much on the table. Indeed, Beckhorn believes the RTD board of directors could vote at its June 17 meeting to close the U Route on Aug. 1.

"We're doing everything we can to get a reprieve," she said.

The coalition wants more time to see if it can increase ridership, and it will have a booth at Bailey Days, June 21-22 that will help do that for the U Route.

In addition, it may ask RTD to consider changing the schedule so that people who get off at 5 p.m. can catch the U. Right now, the U makes two trips in the afternoon: One leaves from the Belleview station, which is the end of the line, at 4:16 p.m., and the other leaves at 4:46 p.m. Beckhorn believes moving one of those buses to a departure time after 5 p.m. would help increase ridership. The two morning routes, which leave Pine Junction at 5:17 a.m. and 5:59 a.m., arrive at the Belleview station at 6:35 a.m. and 7:25 a.m. respectively, which Beckhorn believes are about right for getting people to work at 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. start times. There are 13 stops on the route, she said.

RTD data shows 72 total riders for the U Route, or 36 people making the round trip per day. At the same time, it has said that cancellation of the route would save RTD $375,000 per year. So that translates to a cost of $10,000 per year per round-trip rider.

"It costs RTD a lot of money to deadhead up here," Beckhorn said.

She didn't know to what degree ridership would need to increase for RTD to keep the route, but she knows that ridership needs to increase and people need to speak out.

"If we don't speak, we'll definitely be out," she said.

At the commissioners meeting on June 7, Bruce Beckhorn and Martin Wirth, members of the coalition, asked the commissioners for their support.

Bruce Beckhorn said that commuters who are trying to save on the cost of gas and reduce traffic in metro areas should not be discouraged by closures by RTD.

"If a spotted owl used the location as a migration pattern, there would be no question as to whether it would be retained," Bruce Beckhorn said.

Wirth encouraged attendance at the meeting at RTD headquarters at 1600 Blake St. in downtown Denver on Tuesday, June 17, at 5:30 pm.

RTD has noted that, even with the elimination of the U Route, mountain commuters starting at Pine Junction would the options of riding one of the "C" buses into Denver, then transferring to other buses to their destinations, or driving their own vehicles.

But Pam Beckhorn told The Flume that was "not a positive alternative" in that it adds half an hour to 45 minutes to a trip to the Denver Tech Center.

Commissioner John Tighe said at the meeting that "76 percent of the Park County workforce commutes outside of Park County."

He indicated that more public transportation, not less, is needed to answer economic needs of the commuting public.

Consortium for mountain water needs

The commissioners approved an intergovernmental agreement to establish a consortium of four Upper Mountain Counties - Park, Jefferson, Clear Creek and Gilpin - to analyze water supply demands and available water resources for their collective areas.

Tighe cited Colorado Senate Bill 1177, which set up a board to look for ways to meet the state's water demands.

"The results [of their findings] came down to supply," said Tighe. In 2003 the Colorado Water Conservation Board completed a Statewide Water Supply Initiative, a study that purported to assess water demands for municipal, industrial and agricultural sectors of the state.

The Upper Mountain Counties felt that the analysis did not properly consider the water supply demands and available water resources for residences within their four counties. The study authorized by the intergovernmental agreement will undertake to identify projects that may be needed to address any shortages to areas on community water supplies or areas where depletions of aquifer systems may be occurring.

"The data generated by this group should help prevent water from being 'raided'," said Park County Attorney Lee Phillips.

CDOT to make Deer Creek interchange improvements

Stephen Harelson, resident engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation, presented a contract for the commissioners' review and approval concerning the scope of work and contractual agreements for the maintenance of the grade-separated interchange proposed as the U.S. 285 Deer Creek Interchange. Harelson explained that current plans require County Road 72 to be relocated slightly, extending the highway to the intersection at Delwood Drive. Annex Lane would be abandoned, so Park County would quit-claim rights to the road as a public right-of-way.

The underpass will replace the existing light at the intersection of County Roads 72 and 43 with U.S. 285. The stoplight by the Loaf 'N Jug, at CR 43A and U.S. 285, will remain and will provide for a full-movement intersection.

The project may be advertised as early as June 19, according to Harelson. There were no public comments, but Harelson added that the project will improve safety. The intersection of County Roads 72 and 43 has been one of the most dangerous in the county. There were 56 accidents reported there between 2000 and 2006. The commissioners approved the contract.

Other business

The Consent Agenda included resolutions for items discussed and approved at previous meetings: Rezoning 16 lots from R to R-35 at the Bighorn subdivision; a conditional use permit for Commnet Four Corners to co-locate on an existing cell tower near Grant; and pursuit of civil action against 19 entities for violation of land-use regulations. The resolutions prepared for those items were all approved.

- Tom Locke contributed to this article


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