PPRTA (the sequel) has hopes for a happy ending

       It is said that making sausage isn't pretty, and such appears to be true as well for the creation of the sequel to the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA).
       A meeting by the RTA board March 15 revealed lack of consensus on several issues, including whether RTA money should be used (and if so, how) to help pay for projects traditionally funded with state/federal dollars, such as the proposed replacement interchange at Cimarron Street and I-25.
       Representatives from government entities in El Paso County that collect the RTA sales tax spent about four hours debating nuances of the ballot issue, which they plan to put before voters this fall and which would take effect in 2015.
       Agreement was evident on some elements, such as the length of what's been nicknamed “PPRTA2” (10 years, like the current RTA that started in 2005), the amount available for RTA capital improvements over 10 years ($380 million, which would be 55 percent of the total revenues) and that it should have only an A and B list (unlike the current RTA, which also has a C list).
       The board also voted to approve all the entities' project lists, although with the ballot deadline in August, changes appear likely and legal language is only starting to be considered.
       The Cimarron/I-25 interchange is an example of a possible change. It's not on the proposed list now, but could be if Westsider/ County Commissioner Sallie Clark and others gain support for the concept of using RTA funds as “matching funds” for state or federal dollars.
       In the current RTA (passed by voters in 2004) , the mantra was local money for local needs. But less state and federal money is available now. Cimarron/I-25 has become the top priority of the Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG), but has no budgeted construction funding.
       Clark also provided examples of state and local funds having been combined on past area projects, and PPACG Planner Craig Casper noted that state money was used recently on a local project (the Woodmen overpass at Academy Boulevard). But Kathleen Krager of City Transportation said voters might be dubious because they're used to RTA money going for local projects, “not as a tax for I-25.”
       A big unknown is what project now on the PPRTA2 list would have to come off to make room for Cimarron/I-25.
       Another X-factor is when/if state or federal money will be available for Cimarron, even if RTA money was put forward as a match. Tim Harris, chief engineer for the Colorado Department of Transporta-tion (CDOT), said he could give no guarantee.
       Other PPRTA2 concerns:
  • Whether (or how to) allow projects on the A list to be changed to the B list and vice versa (such was not allowed in the current RTA - some board members like the flexibility that would result, while others are concerned that voters might find that unclear).
  • How much to spend on trails and/or transit (some believe that the current 4 percent by the city for those topics is not enough,while others think it is too much; another point raised was that when the original RTA was passed, the city was helping pay for transit service but does not do so anymore, and now the city list is seeking RTA money to pay for new buses).
           City Councilmember Jan Martin expressed confidence that eventually, assuming a reasonably worded ballot issue emerges, it will gain public support at the polls in November because the current, 10-year RTA has fulfilled its promise by funding all the A-list items that voters approved in 2004.

    Westside Pioneer article