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Some RFTA riders riled over crowded 133 lot

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Expansion slated in spring or summer

John Colson

Sopris Sun Correspondent

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Area bus riders might be forgiven for being a little upset at the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority about the availability of parking spaces at the Carbondale Park & Ride lot, acknowledged the transit agency’s CEO Dan Blankenship recently.

But, he promised, things will improve in the spring or summer.

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“We’re in the height of the busy season right now, and the lot’s overflowing,” said Blankenship in an interview in late December.

But RFTA planners had been working on a solution, including the purchase of a lot next to the Park & Ride at a cost of $425,000 and making plans to expand the parking lot, plans that he had hoped would come to fruition before the end of 2014.

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But, he said, the agency got a nasty surprise when construction estimates for another Park & Ride expansion project in New Castle came in last fall at more than twice the $500,000 estimate.

At that point, he said, he and his board were worried that RFTA was at the mercy of contractors who already had plenty of work, and who were putting high-premium prices in their estimates for anyone trying to get more work out of them.

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So they decided to put off the bid process for Carbondale, dropped plans for the New Castle expansion, and are on hold until a little later in 2015 before they put out a new set of bid documents.

“We hope to be able to get more competitive bids for Carbondale and for New Castle,” Blankenship told The Sopris Sun, explaining that until the high bids came in for New Castle he had anticipated spending about the same amount in construction costs for each project — about $500,000.

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He said the agency has applied for federal grant money that could be used to augment RFTA’s construction budgets for the two projects, if that becomes necessary.

“Certainly the Carbondale project is one we think is a high priority,” he said, adding that he hopes to get the project built in the spring or early summer.

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Blankenship was eager to placate angry bus riders who find themselves circling the Park & Ride lot in the early-morning rush to find scarce parking spots, then having to drive back into the center of town to park and take a connector bus back to the Park & Ride.

He suggested that bus riders driving to the Park & Ride lot in the morning should keep in mind that the lot typically is filled up by 7:30 a.m., and adjust their schedule accordingly to allow time to park in the center of town and get to the Park & Ride lot.

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He said there is auxiliary parking between Colorado Avenue and Main Street at Highway 133, and another lot near town hall on Colorado Avenue, and that the Carbondale Circulator bus will take drivers from stops near each of those lots to the Park & Ride facility.

The schedule for the circulator bus has it at the Sixth Street bus stop (near town hall) at three, 18, 33 and 48 minutes after the hour, and taking roughly seven to eight minutes to get from there to the Park & Ride lot to connect with Bus Rapid Transit buses heading upvalley or downvalley.

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The circulator stops at the Main Street bus stop at Highway 133, according to the schedule, at four, 19, 34 and 49 minutes after the hour, with a transit time of about six minutes to the Park & Ride lot.