S-curves group tries to narrow down solutions | AspenTimes.com

S-curves group tries to narrow down solutions

Jennifer DavorenAspen Times Staff Writer

The pressing congestion problem in the S-curve configuration at the Entrance to Aspen needs an immediate solution, members of a city task force agreed Wednesday.The group assembled at Aspen City Hall yesterday for a presentation listing the various options available for highway improvements. Nick Senn, an engineering consultant from Glenwood Springs, presented a memo to task force members with several recommendations ranked by cost and time required.The least invasive improvements, Senn said, would involve tweaking the highway’s current two-lane configuration. According to his memo, this could include a modified intersection at Cemetery Lane, the “softening” of the S-curves with the removal of the concrete island and on-street parking, and the restriction of left turns off the highway.If the city chooses to fix the entrance with the addition of a third, reversible lane of traffic that could be dedicated to buses, it would need a bit more money and construction time – perhaps three to six years, by Senn’s estimate. It would require “a major structural change” to the Castle Creek bridge, possibly involving the elimination of pedestrian access.Another option could include a four-lane configuration for the highway. In this case, parallel bridges would be built to help traffic over Castle Creek, according to the memo.No matter which option is explored, the city must address certain “choke points,” Senn said.”As many of you have come to the same conclusion, we believe the Castle Creek bridge is one of the main constraints,” he said.After a short perusal of the memo, task force members polled Senn for his opinions. The option of a third, reversible lane of traffic through town remained a favorite topic of discussion, but consultants were somewhat skeptical.”I think that the reversible lane … is somewhat feasible, but Steve [Olson] has his doubts,” Senn said.Olson, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s representative on the task force, said a reversible lane would create “a lot of hoops to jump through.” CDOT would need evidence that the practice has worked well in cities similar to Aspen and that drivers can adapt to a lane switch.”I’m not saying it’s not viable, but if it hasn’t been done, we’re going to be very leery of it,” Olson said.”Because it is so unique, I think it would take some time to go through the process,” Senn agreed.An expansion beyond three lanes seemed least desirable.”The four-lane triggers bigger events,” including funding problems and the inconvenience of road construction, Senn said.”I think the four-lane is pretty impractical at this time,” Olson agreed.The most practical option available to Aspen, Senn said, would be something that could be accomplished quickly.”I would define `feasible’ as what you can accomplish short-term,” he said.Task force member Cliff Weiss noted that, while the group should continue to brainstorm quick fixes for local traffic problems, “we also have the charge to come up with midterm solutions.”But in the interest of time – the task force has just two meetings left before it will present its recommendations to the Aspen City Council – the group decided it would begin to compile a list of options that each member could agree on.Member Dennis Vaughn, for instance, suggested that a four-lane option for the highway be stricken from the discussions – and, though peers readily agreed, some expressed dismay that it was still an option when the task force first formed.Task force member Richie Cohen took the floor, rattling off a list of suggestions he thought the group could adopt quickly – and, he noted, the city could accept just as easily.”We should focus now on short-term solutions, and discuss midterm separately,” Weiss agreed.Cohen’s suggestions included:-restriction of parking on Main Street to allow for a bus-only lane leaving town during peak commuting hours.-elimination of left turns and straight movement across Seventh Street for traffic leaving town.-removal of the bus stop at Bleeker and Seventh Street.-removal of the concrete island located near the U.S. Forest Service offices.-an “enforceable alternate feed” for downvalley traffic at Seventh and Main.”These are all immediate solutions we could work on,” he said.Though a few task force members argued against Cohen’s ideas, moderator Gary Suitor said the group could take up the topic again at its next meeting. Suitor also asked city staffers to draw up Cohen’s suggestions to give the group a better idea of their impact.The task force will meet again at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Aspen City Hall. At that time, the group hopes to pen the first draft of its eventual recommendation to council.[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is jenniferd@aspentimes.com]

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