Developing Regional Transportation Solutions

As Routt County grows, we see an increase in commuter traffic. That, coupled with the frequent closures of I-70, have created increased congestion and emissions, and an increase in costly human-wildlife collisions.

The time is now to take the long view on transportation and begin to address these commuter issues before they become unmanageable. During my time on the Steamboat Springs City Council, we adopted a Transportation and Mobility Plan that placed a heavy emphasis on community walkability. At the municipal scale this is a good first step. But at the County level we must think bigger, and the time is now. 

As a City Councilor, I sat on the “Innovative Transportation Task Force,” a group that brought the city, County, and local businesses together to explore transportation solutions. We discussed, and wrote to our Senators about, re-purposing on the railway. 

With the planned obsolescence of coal-fired power plants, there is opportunity. What that looks like is to be determined. Is it a popular and well-established program like Rails to Trails? It is commuter rail? Is it a thoroughfare for autonomous vehicles that would allow commuters to work, or simply relax while driving? Whatever it is, it will take time. I know because I’ve worked with the railway before. Some of you might remember that it took a decade plus to work with Union Pacific on the re-alignment at the Botanic Park. But, as my friend Scott Ford says, “pleasant persistence prevails.” 

Now it the time to think big. I have good relationships with our elected officials at all levels of government and know that we are well-poised to get big things done. How do I know? I’ve done it before. I helped establish a Regional Transportation Authority in Pima County, Arizona and secured wildlife crossings and corridors as a priority within it. With the benefit of 15 years of hindsight, we can look back on its successes. In a 20-month study, the state wildlife agency noted that 1,182 animals had used the overpass or underpass along a major highway.