Work on Yampa Valley transportation authority expected to ramp up soon

A Steamboat Springs Transit Service bus pulls into a bus loading zone along Pine Grove Road in Steamboat. Officials hope make progress on setting up a regional transportation authority early next year, and a big step will be to gauge interest in the RTA from a broad pool of stakeholders across the Yampa Valley.
Bryce Martin/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

Officials in Northwest Colorado hope to kick off a public effort to explore a regional transportation authority early next year, though their priority right now isn’t speed.

Steamboat Springs Transit Manager Jonathan Flint said Routt County and Steamboat are ready to proceed, and Craig, the third partner in this effort, is “really, really close.”

“When that is all done, then we’ll be contracting with the vendor, the consulting team, and then that’s when everything really kicks off,” Flint said. “(We want) to make sure that we take these first steps of reaching out, really getting that interest and make sure that’s done in the right way.”

Flint said they hope to be ready to work with consultants after the first of the year, though he noted that could be an optimistic timeline. While an RTA for the Yampa Valley has been pondered for decades and more seriously talked about for several years now, Flint said the priority is ensuring they get input from a broad slate of stakeholders.

As for who those stakeholders are, Flint said it could be anyone who wants to help guide the future of transportation locally — from everyday bus riders to elected officials. While towns like Oak Creek and Hayden haven’t been a part of the process to start, Flint said that doesn’t prevent them from participating and being a part of a future RTA.

“It’s casting a very wide net finding interested parties — the officials that can make it happen, the experts who have done similar things,” Flint said. “The first part of the project is to just make sure that it’s widely known that this process is being done and seeing who out there is interested in being a part of this.”

The ‘T’ in RTA can sometimes mean transit, but Flint emphasized that here it stands for transportation, which means it could address far more than a busing system. It can impact “all aspects of transportation,” Flint said, including trails generally thought of as recreation or non-traditional modes of movement like a gondola.

What is included in transportation is a large part of what this outreach will be about, Flint said.

“From trails to air service and all points in between,” Flint said. “Part of this is trying to be innovative and creative, looking at different modes. Would a gondola be part of that? All sorts of different things, so that’s why it’s so important to see who all is interested and then what they’re interested in.”

Getting input from local businesses, especially large ones like Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. and UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, will be key as well, as getting tourists and workers around town is already a pivotal function of Steamboat’s transportation system. Flint said the resort has already been an important partner in RTA discussions.

“Sometimes we think of governments, municipalities, land areas and constituents, but it’s also the business community that we want heavily involved in this process,” Flint said. “That’s where I think it is so important to get that net cast wide, because there’s maybe some people that didn’t really think they were part of this discussion that are very important.”

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