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Transit agencies look to purchase lot near CB for bus fleet

Rare opportunity for the future that doesn’t come along often

By Mark Reaman

The Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority and Mountain Express bus system are partnering up to purchase an industrial lot in the new Whetstone Industrial Park just south of Crested Butte. While details are still being worked out, the idea is to purchase one of the new one-acre sites and use it for bus storage for both entities.

“This is looking into the future and I envision 20 years out the RTA will need three bays and space to locate buses,” explained RTA executive director Scott Truex. “The opportunity came up now and for long term planning for this organization, this makes a lot of sense. Buses would be parked outside initially.”

The one-acre lot is selling for $450,000 and the price would be split evenly between the RTA and Mountain Express. Improvements to the property would be split on a pro-rata basis based on which entity was using the improvements. The land purchase could also provide the opportunity for RTA to approach the state about starting the valley’s daily bus service to Denver from Crested Butte instead of Gunnison which could increase ridership according to Truex.

RTA chairman John Messner insisted on a tight, clear contract between the RTA and Mountain Express to prevent misunderstandings in the future. “We want to make sure the decision making criteria in the future is clear,” he said.

Simple utilities and a fence would probably be brought to the property initially and buses would be parked outside. No residential use is allowed on the industrial lot. A bus storage site in the north end of the valley is one of the RTA’s long-term goals and Truex said as the RTA fleet and service grows, the site is perfect. “Ideally it is better for buses to be parked inside especially when starting up in the winter mornings. As we grow we will need more storage space. Mountain Express needs it more now but we will. It is a good opportunity for the future that is not likely to come around again.”

Mountain Express transit manager Chris Larsen agrees the purchase will be beneficial for the future. “Our plan would be to start using it next summer at the earliest,” he explained. “Mountain Express will use the lot for outdoor storage initially with four to six buses and with the hope of building a six to eight bay facility. It is a very good thing for the Mountain Express and the RTA. We thought this would be the last opportunity to purchase land in this part of the valley for future use.”

Messner presented the option of financing the purchase so that planned capital projects that include bus stops along Highway 135 for this year can continue.

Truex said financially the bus shelter plan might go from three to one as a result of the property purchase under the current budget. “We have large fund balances and we could borrow from one of them instead of going outside the RTA,” he suggested. “This is an opportunity that came along and changed a few things.”

“I like the idea of borrowing from ourselves to keep everything we have planned going,” said RTA board member Kent Cowherd.

“There are opportunities for financing. Building bus stop infrastructure on 135 is important,” said Messner.

“It sounds like we can do both,” concluded board member Leia Morrison.

“That is correct. We can amend the budget and the fund balances to make this all work,” said Truex.

The rest of the board gave the nod to continue negotiations with Mountain Express and the developer to pursue the one-acre purchase.

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