Steamboat Springs, Routt County applying for grant to explore regional transit |

Steamboat Springs, Routt County applying for grant to explore regional transit

This snowman on Village Drive appears to be waiting to board a Steamboat Springs Transit. (Photo by John F. Russell)

Representatives from Steamboat Springs City Council, the Routt County Board of Commissioners, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. and Steamboat Springs Chamber have agreed to apply for a federal transit grant to evaluate the feasibility of a regional transit authority across the Yampa Valley.

“We’ve been talking about this for decades, and we know that it’s going to keep coming up,” council member Michael Buccino said in a meeting with City Council and county commissioners this past week.

The study will look at various transportation options, including bike and walking trails, roads, shared rides, rapid transit, a rail system and a citywide gondola.

As for how the transit authority would be funded, City Council and commissioners shared differing ideas, such as an annual motor vehicle registration fee, a sales or use tax, a property tax or reissuing bonds.

“I want everyone on this call to remember the hard work is not the feasibility study,” council member Kathi Meyer said. “The hard part is going to be convincing our colleagues and our community members that it’s important that we do this.’”

Though the project may be expensive, local leaders believe a regional transportation approach is essential as Steamboat continues to grow, prices rise and options for affordable housing shrink.

“Transportation is inevitably linked with affordable housing,” Council President Jason Lacy said. “We’re going to need to put more time and effort on our transportation initiatives, because it’s going to become more and more pressing every year that we wait.”

Several community members also attended the virtual meeting to speak in favor of a regional transit authority — claiming it was necessary as those living in Steamboat are moving to outer communities.

“I think we just have to start moving forward, because the housing market is frightening,” said Kathy Diemer, owner of Johnny B. Good’s Diner in downtown Steamboat. “We’re having problems we’ve never had before, and we can’t keep waiting to address them. We have to address them, and we have to address them now.”

In addition to helping address the area’s affordable housing crisis, council members and commissioners said the transit authority could coincide with the county’s climate action plan, as the plan will likely include public transit and expansion of pedestrian and bicycle trails.

“A regional transportation authority and this feasibility study would work to satisfy that concern,” Commissioner Tim Redmond said.

Deputy City Manager Tom Leeson, who presented the idea, said the grant requires a 20% match, which would be about $26,000 to $30,000. Projects will vary in costs depending on what the study finds and what elected officials choose to move forward with, Leeson said.

“I think we might be letting the state off the hook here,” Redmond said, adding he believed the state should contribute more for a regional project covering two counties and a large area.

Council member Heather Sloop said she had been in previous communication with state officials, and they said they were more likely to help fund projects that covered larger regions, which is why she believed the Yampa Valley is likely to receive some help from the state down the road.

“I think we will have more success if we include our friends in Craig, Moffat County, Hayden and Milner,” Sloop said. “We can give (the state) a package, and we can say these guys are here to help people in the entire corridor become more energy efficient and help with the housing crisis as well.”

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