Entrance to Aspen stymied by bureaucracy
July 25, 2017
During Aspen's recent election, The Aspen Times ran a front-page story with the headline, "Candidates mull proposal for bus lane free-for-all." If English is your second language, the phrase "free-for-all" sounds like a pretty good thing. But bus lane chaos was being proposed by local resident Jay Maytin, who apparently didn't know that his suggestion (remove the "bus-only" designation from the outbound Highway 82 lane between the roundabout and Buttermilk) was akin to anarchy.
The change would require replacing roadside signs which read, "Right lane — RFTA buses and emergency vehicles only" with signs that say, "Right lane — HOV and right turns only 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mon-Fri". The solid painted line would also need to be replaced with a broken line, but these two actions represent the total cost of the project.
The zeal on the part of local officials to crush this modest suggestion was awe inspiring. "The 1998 Record of Decision … precludes such an experiment," "we would need to commit to a multi-year and multi-million dollar process to implement it." "It requires an updated (environmental impact statement), sign-off by (the Colorado Department of Transporation [sic]) and Federal Highway Administration, a vote on the use of city open space, and repayment of all or some of the county mass transit sales tax that was used to construct the lane in the first place."
If Ann Mullins, Steve Skadron, Rachel Richards, et al are correct, look no further for the perfect example of why the United States is facing collapse under the weight of its own protocols, procedures, and regulations. They are wrong on nearly every point, of course, but the fact that they sound plausible to themselves and others is nearly as bad as if they were right. No society can function under this sort of bureaucratic paralysis, whether real or perceived.
The allegedly untouchable Record of Decision contains a "first-phase" highway design for the unfinished section of the Entrance to Aspen which would not relieve congestion — because it uses road signs of the first type (buses only) quoted above. The exact same design, but with signs of the second type (HOV), would dramatically improve traffic flow. It's no wonder people who have devoted their lives to preserving Aspen's traffic jam won't allow any talk about changing a sign.
Meanwhile, the state of Colorado recently completed a pedestrian underpass at the Aspen airport intersection. This allows a shorter traffic light sequence (no more waiting for pedestrians) and an increased speed limit. The improved traffic flow then pours into the bottleneck where two lanes merge into one at Buttermilk, thus making the backups worse without any increase in traffic volume. This same effect will occur when the pedestrian underpass in Basalt is finished, and to a lesser extent when the new bridge in Glenwood Springs is completed. All downvalley traffic flow improvements will exacerbate the traffic jam in Aspen.
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