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CDOT threatens to withhold $34 million if RTD doesn’t restore Boulder and Longmont commuter bus routes

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CDOT threatens to withhold $34 million if RTD doesn’t restore Boulder and Longmont commuter bus routes

The Colorado Department of Transportation has delivered an ultimatum to RTD: Restore key Boulder and Longmont commuter bus routes that run along U.S. 36 — including two Flatiron Flyer lines — or lose out on a chunk of the federal pandemic relief money the agency is counting on.

RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

Colorado Department of Transportation executive director Shoshana Lew, right, and Gov. Jared Polis at a meeting in 2019.

At stake is $34.2 million that is the portion of transit aid money set aside for Boulder County under the American Rescue Plan, approved by Congress earlier this year. That federal money for outlying areas of metro Denver normally is funneled to the Regional Transportation District through CDOT.

But in an unusual move, CDOT executive director Shoshana Lew wrote in a letter sent Tuesday that she would sign off on the transfer only if the agency agreed to restore the bus routes, which have been among those suspended during the pandemic. The letter, addressed to RTD general manager and CEO Debra Johnson, gives RTD until Friday to accept CDOT’s conditions.

RTD spokeswoman Marta Sipeki confirmed that Johnson received Lew’s letter but said the agency had no comment Wednesday.

A complication for CDOT’s stand is that the Federal Transit Administration told Lew in a recent letter that CDOT must distribute the money by Oct. 31 to RTD or another transit provider. Failure to do so could harm several Colorado transit agencies’ competitiveness if they apply for a new $2.2 billion pandemic assistance program this fall, the FTA told CDOT.

The money that CDOT is holding onto accounts for about 10% of RTD’s combined $338 million in allocations under the American Rescue Plan.

All told, including earlier federal COVID aid bills, RTD has been approved for $773 million in pandemic assistance since last year. It’s depending on the money to buttress its budget for several years amid still-lagging ridership, especially among commuters.

Lew’s letter is the latest move by Gov. Jared Polis’ administration and Boulder County leaders to put pressure on RTD to provide more service to the area. Earlier this year, Polis, who lives in Boulder, pushed RTD to finish a costly 35-mile extension of its B-Line commuter rail line to Boulder and Longmont as promised under the 2004 FasTracks metro transit expansion package approved by voters. RTD can’t afford the estimated $1.5 billion price tag but agreed to study ways to provide limited service.

In the case of the suspended bus routes, Lew pointed out that CDOT and RTD spent hundreds of millions of dollars to expand U.S. 36 in the last decade.

“The state invested roughly half a billion dollars in modernizing U.S. 36 with a managed lane that was specifically designed to incorporate the bus rapid transit that the Flatiron Flyer express routes provided,” Lew wrote. “These rapidly became amongst the most successful routes in the region…”

Those overlapping routes had counted about 13,000 boardings per day before the pandemic. Now the Flatiron Flyer’s FF1 — the only regular route still running — has just 2,000 a day, said Jessie Carter, the agency’s manager of service planning and scheduling, during an RTD board meeting this week.

The routes that Lew has called on RTD to restore are the FF2 and FF4, which operate between Boulder and stations in downtown Denver; and the LX1 and LX2, which are express routes between Longmont and downtown Denver. Besides the FF1, RTD currently runs limited service on two other Flyer routes and operates four weekday buses on its non-express Route LD1 between Longmont and Denver.

Carter spoke Tuesday night during an RTD board discussion about upcoming service changes. Director Lynn Guissinger, whose District O includes much of Boulder County, said she’d received repeated requests to restore more Flatiron Flyer service.

RTD officials responded that they have prioritized other routes for restoration because of the Flyers’ high operating costs, insufficient demand among downtown commuters and RTD’s ongoing operator shortage, among other factors.

RTD’s labor shortage is part of a larger problem affecting private and public employers — including CDOT’s maintenance and snow removal staff.

Another round of service restorations last month brought RTD’s service level up to about 70% of pre-pandemic levels, but officials have said staffing is getting tight.

The flashpoint over the Boulder County routes also highlights RTD’s long-running tension between equity and commuter-heavy suburban service.

Carter said other parts of metro Denver still lack any service, and some routes that have higher ridership than the Flyer routes currently need expansion because they serve more people who are low-income or are from communities that rely more heavily on RTD service.

“My team is anxious to get back to providing a higher level of service and bringing back the routes that we are accustomed to seeing a high ridership on,” he said. “That includes the U.S. 36 corridor, but it also includes other parts of the district.”

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The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 12: Last-minute moves

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The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 12: Last-minute moves

UPDATE: 10:45 a.m. Sunday

The big news this morning involves the running game, as a number of prominent backs are going to be back on the gridiron.

The ranks of the returning include the Giants’ Saquon Barkley, Jacksonville’s James Robinson, the 49ers’ Elijah Mitchell, Atlanta’s Cordarrelle Patterson, Seattle’s Alex Collins and two Patriots: Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson.

Still questionable is Green Bay RB Aaron Jones, which is troublesome since that’s a late-afternoon game.

Players ruled out for Week 12 include Giants WR Kadarius Toney, Jets wideout Corey Davis. and Giants TE Kyle Rudolph.

Those cleared to play include Rams QB Matthew Stafford, Ravens WR Marquise Brown, Cleveland WR Donovan Peoples-Jones and New England tight end Hunter Henry.

UPDATE: 10:51 a.m. Saturday
They share a surname, and a talent for catching passes. And this week, both Tennessee’s A.J. Brown and Tampa Bay’s Antonio Brown will be on the sideline.

Those absences are not equal. The Titans’ Brown will be greatly missed as he is a vital part of that team’s offense, especially since the departure of Derrick Henry. Tennessee QB Ryan Tannehill should be downgraded this week because of Brown’s absence, and many other reasons.

Tampa Bay’s Brown is a shadow of his former self and just one of many receiving options for Tom Brady. He was not a must-start like A.J.

Titans running back Jeremy McNichols has also been ruled out of tomorrow’s game at New England. For the struggling New York Giants, WR Sterling Shepard has been ruled out, and sidekick Kadarius Toney is considered very doubtful to play against Philadelphia.

One big name should be back this week. Cleveland RB Kareem Hunt should return to his No. 2 role behind Nick Chubb.

Notables listed as questionable this morning (besides Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh awaiting his annual Ohio State beatdown) include Giants RB Saquon Barkley, Green Bay RB Aaron Jones, 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell, Seattle RB Alex Collins, Jets wideout Corey Davis, Giants tight end Kyle Rudolph and Patriots TE Jonnu Smith.

ORIGINAL POST: 11:12 a.m. Wednesday
We all have a lot to give thanks for this year. This week’s availability of top fantasy football stars is not one of them.

Two of the top contenders for Super Bowl LVI, the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals, are on bye this week. So, stars ranging from Patrick Mahomes to Kyler Murray to Travis Kelce and DeAndre Hopkins will be spending time with their families while you spend time ignoring your families while scrounging for replacements on the waiver wire.

The three-game slate of Thanksgiving games is also a problem because it makes the return of injured standouts more untenable. Teams are unlikely to risk their fragile stars coming back on a short week, whether we’re talking about Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott or New Orleans star Alvin Karama.

Is there anything you can find on the fantasy buffet to replace your missing gridiron calories? Here’s a half dozen prospects likely still available in your league, and could be hot dishes in Week 12:

Devonta Freeman (Ravens RB) — The veteran has emerged from the mish-mash that is the Baltimore backfield to become the undisputed No. 1. His yardage totals aren’t much, but he has a TD in four of his past five games. He likely will make it 5 out of 6 against Cleveland.

Baltimore Ravens Devonta Freeman celebrates his touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Chicago. The Ravens won 16-13. (AP Photo/David Banks)

Rex Burkhead (Texans RB) — Houston suddenly decided to give the former Patriot a first-string workload last week. He rushed 18 times in the Texans’ upset of Tennessee and could be in line for his first touchdown of the season Sunday against the lowly Jets.

1638037688 682 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 12 Two Browns out
Houston Texans running back Rex Burkhead (28) and Los Angeles Rams linebacker Troy Reeder (51) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Justin Rex )

Elijah Moore (Jets WR) — Speaking of the Jets, this rookie has emerged as New York’s most reliable fantasy option. He has four TDs in his past three games and is coming off a 141-yard effort vs. Miami. He could do just as well against Houston.

1638037688 875 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 12 Two Browns out
New York Jets’ Elijah Moore runs with the ball for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)

Marvin Jones (Jaguars WR) — He’s one of the season’s biggest disappointments with only 42 catches and three touchdowns. But Jacksonville has played better lately, and the Atlanta defense has not. A good candidate for a late-season revival.

1638037688 902 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 12 Two Browns out
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marvin Jones (11) runs a route during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers QB) — The Vikings’ defense was mostly shredded in the second half by Aaron Rodgers last Sunday, and the San Fran attack has been perking up. Garappolo has accounted for two TDs in four straight games and will likely make it a fifth Sunday.

1638037688 214 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 12 Two Browns out
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

Trevor Siemian (Saints QB) — Hard to believe but the former Northwestern platoon QB has been one of the top fantasy QBs the past three weeks after replacing Jameis Winston. A lot of his stats have been padded in garbage time, and there will be more of that against the Bills.

1638037689 790 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 12 Two Browns out
New York Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian (19) grabs his leg after being hurt during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

SITTING STARS
The Indianapolis defense has been pretty stout lately, which means Tom Brady and Chris Godwin might be the only Buccaneers you should start this week. … OK, and Rob Gronkowski. … Carolina QB Cam Newton will see his two-game streak of both throwing and running for a touchdown end against Miami. … Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, but we think you should avoid starting him against the Ravens. … The Chargers’ Austin Ekeler will find tougher going in Denver, so don’t expect another four TDs from him. … And we’re not expecting much from either of the running attacks in Lambeau Field on Sunday, so you might pause slightly before starting Green Bay’s A.J. Dillon or the Rams’ Darrell Henderson.

1638037689 338 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 12 Two Browns out
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) celebrates his first touchdown at Bank of America Stadium after returning to the team during an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones)

MATCHUP GAME
If Detroit is finally going to win a game, and it might, then RB D’Andre Swift will have to have a big Turkey Day. … Seattle QB Russell Wilson has been horrible since returning from injury but will regain some of his form vs. Washington. … Dallas QB Dak Prescott was spitting mad off after going touchdown-free in Kansas City, so he will bounce back against the sinking Raiders … Washington RB Antonio Gibson and wideout Terry McLaurin will have big games against Seattle … Same goes for Baltimore tight end Mark Andrews vs. Cleveland. … And speaking of tight ends, look for the 49ers’ George Kittle to look like his old self against what’s left of the Vikings’ defense.

1638037689 693 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 12 Two Browns out
Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift (32) runs for a 57-yard touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

INJURY WATCH
Chicago won’t have Justin Fields at quarterback on Thanksgiving in Detroit, so Andy Dalton will be back over center. As for the winless Lions, QB Jared Goff is said to be “trending” towards starting. … Also Thursday, Dallas is hoping to get WR CeeDee Lamb out of the concussion protocols in time to face the Raiders. … Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers will be inhibited by a toe injury and a depleted offensive line against the Rams, though you likely should start him anyway. … Players ruled out include Dallas WR Amari Cooper, Jacksonville wideout Jamal Agnew, Seattle RB Chris Carson and Philly RB Jordan Howard. … The ranks of the questionable include San Fran RB Elijah Mitchell, Atlanta RB Cordarrelle Patterson, Titans WR A.J. Brown, Baltimore WR Marquise Brown, Cleveland WR Jarvis Landry, Chicago WR Darnell Mooney and Washington tight end Logan Thomas.

1638037689 789 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 12 Two Browns out
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) looks to pass the ball against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

THE DEEPEST SLEEPERS
The New York Jets need to replace rookie running back Michael Carter for at least a couple of weeks because of a high ankle sprain. Who will it be? Either Tevin Coleman or Ty Johnson. One or both could become a fantasy factor, particularly with the lowly Houston Texans on the slate this week. Coleman, with only 118 yards on the season, is likely to get the most rushing attempts, while Johnson, with three touchdowns on the season, will be the primary pass catcher. With Zack Wilson returning to quarterback the J-E-T-S, we like Johnson best in this showdown of 2-8 juggernauts.

1638037689 114 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 12 Two Browns out
New York Jets running back Ty Johnson (25) runs before an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

THE THURSDAY PICKS
Bears at Lions (+3½):
Pick: Lions by 3
Raiders at Cowboys (-7½):
Pick: Cowboys by 8
Bills at Saints (+4½):
Pick: Bills by 7

1638037689 274 The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 12 Two Browns out
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) celebrates after a touchdown in the first half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

BREAKING NEWS
We’ll be updating our column, based on the latest injuries and innuendo, right up until Sunday’s kickoff. Go to TwinCities.com/theloop.

You can hear Kevin Cusick on Wednesdays on Bob Sansevere’s “BS Show” podcast on iTunes. You can follow Kevin on Twitter — @theloopnow. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Large fire reported at recycling business in East St. Louis

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Large fire reported at recycling business in East St. Louis

ST. CHARLES, Mo. – The Christmas Traditions Festival is a celebration that business owners on Main Street in St. Charles rely on to stay afloat, especially coming out of the pandemic. But, they worry barriers will block the shoppers they need this season. 

“The question is do we have a shopping and dining district or do we have a street party district?” said Robert Schuette, owner of First Capitol Trading Collectibles and Gifts. 

Business owners on Main Street were notified on Nov. 2 that the St. Charles Fire chief approved a city ordinance to block off the strip from parking on weekends during the Christmas Traditions Festival for public safety reasons … but they say, blocking vehicles also block sales. 

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Mikaela Shiffrin ties Ingemar Stenmark record with win in women’s slalom

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Mikaela Shiffrin ties Ingemar Stenmark record with win in women’s slalom

KILLINGTON, Vt. — Mikaela Shiffrin marked the return of the women’s World Cup to North America by setting yet another record — and the two-time Olympic champion did it Sunday on home snow.

Shiffrin beat Petra Vlhova — her main rival — for her 46th career win in slalom. That matched a 32-year-old record for most World Cup wins in a single discipline, set by Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark in giant slalom.

While the 26-year-old Shiffrin hails from Vail, Colorado, she can almost consider Killington a hometown race as she honed her skills nearby at the Burke Mountain Academy as a teenager.

Shiffrin trailed Vlhova by .20 seconds after the first run and, although she made an error at the top of her second run, a fantastic finish ensured she was still fastest on that second run.

Shiffrin lifted her arms over her head to soak in the cheers of the passionate home crowd before cupping her hand to her ear as she beamed broadly.

Then she turned to watch her rival.

Vlhova also made a mistake, and that cost her even more dearly than Shiffrin’s. The overall champion was almost a second slower than Shiffrin on the second run to ultimately finish .75 behind in second place.

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