Transportation commissioner raises concerns about new state-funded bus service for I-70 ski areas
Steamboat Springs — Northwest Colorado’s representative on the State Transportation Commission thinks a new state-funded bus service catered mostly to skiers traveling to ski resorts along Interstate 70 leaves Colorado’s more isolated resort destinations out in the cold.
“I’m having some difficulty myself with the fact that it’s only going up the main route, and places in outlying areas like Purgatory, Telluride and Steamboat don’t get the helping hand,” Commission Chairwoman Kathy Connell said Tuesday. “That distresses me. I’ve been wanting to have this conversation with the commission. It’s one thing to stimulate and help areas, but the unfair advantage doesn’t seem fair to me.”
The Colorado Department of Transportation is about to launch a test run of the “SnowStang” bus service to try and attract skiers and snowboarders.
The buses will travel round trip from Lakewood to A-Basin, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail and Winter Park on Feb. 11 and 25.
Tickets range from $45 to $60, and the program will cost the state $10,000 per day to run.
Connell said she does like the idea of getting more people onto the buses and out of the cars that create serious gridlock when they go to and from the ski areas on busy weekends.
And she says the pilot program could help to justify a bigger public transportation solution, such as an eventual train, along the I-70 corridor in the future if the buses are full.
But she thinks the pilot program raises some questions about fairness and equity in transportation funding when it is only serving a short list of the state’s ski resorts.
She said she’s fine allowing the program to commence on a short trial basis, but the state should have a conversation about equity if it advances any further.
“Vail is totally private, and we’re giving them another big shot in the arm, and we’re not giving it to other areas,” Connell said. “What are (these resorts) giving back? I think ski corporations all over have not contributed enough to help the transportation needs that they all benefit from.”
Connell said the state asks communities to contribute to transportation improvements, and it should ask the same of the ski areas.
“If we’re going to service these (ski) areas, we need to look at the broader picture of how we serve everybody and if it’s equitable,” Connell said.
She added she will continue to “fight rigorously” for transportation improvements that benefit Steamboat and other outlying communities on the Western Slope.
Connell said she thinks road improvements are still needed on such highways as Colorado Highway 131 and Highway 9 between Silverthorne and Kremmling.
CDOT told the Summit Daily News that if the “SnowStang” program is successful, buses could continue to run to the ski resorts on more days this season and beyond.
The state sees the new bus service as an opportunity to reduce traffic congestion on the I-70 corridor.
The WiFi-equipped buses will be able to use the new express lane on eastbound I-70 to bypass traffic congestion.
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Steamboat Springs is expected to finish off July with slightly more precipitation than in previous years.