ACRA favors straight shot
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association board voted 8-3 on Tuesday to endorse the modified direct alignment between the roundabout and Main Street in Aspen.
The modified direct alignment, as approved in the state’s 1998 Record of Decision, allows for two lanes of highway and a “light rail transit system, that, if local support and/or funding are not available, will be developed initially as exclusive bus lanes.”
The ACRA joins the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, the Aspen Skiing Co., and a majority of both the Aspen City Council and the Pitkin County commissioners as endorsing the so-called “straight shot” over the existing S-curves.
Stan Clauson, a local planner and the former director of planning for the city of Aspen, motioned that the ACRA board take a stand on the issue, saying that the modified direct alignment was “very definitely critical to Aspen as a resort.”
He said the direct alignment allowed for mass transit improvements that would benefit both visitors and employees, and that a vote for the S-curves could send a “go-away” message to the Colorado Department of Transportation. The agency has placed funding the Entrance to Aspen improvements high on its priority list.
Before the vote, the board debated whether it should even weigh in on the issue, which is on the Nov. 5 ballot in the city of Aspen and Pitkin County.
ACRA has taken a stance on previous issues facing voters, such as the marketing and transportation bed tax, the Burlingame housing project and the airport expansion issue in the early 1990s.
But while the nonprofit ACRA is willing to take positions on issues facing voters, it cannot actively campaign to influence voters without forming a political action committee, said ACRA board chair Molly Campbell.
“What is inappropriate for this board to do is actively campaign for an issue,” she said.
Tuesday’s ACRA meeting played out in a similar fashion to Monday’s meeting of the RFTA board, which also first debated if it should take a stance and then voted to endorse the modified direct alignment.
ACRA board members Barry Gordon, Helen Klanderud and John Sarpa voted against taking a stance. Sarpa suggested it would be more appropriate to first poll ACRA members.
“We need to have a very clear idea of where our members stand,” he said.
But other representatives on the ACRA board, including Shellie Roy, Don Sheeley and Andy Modell, argued for taking a position.
“The business community nominated us to represent them,” Modell said. “We took on the responsibility of taking stands on issues. It is our responsibility.”
After an 8-5 vote to consider the issue, the ACRA board allowed former Aspen Mayor Rachel Richards two minutes to speak in favor of the modified direct alignment and Aspen City Councilman Terry Paulson two minutes to speak in favor of the S-curves.
Richards said this election was asking the question, “What is the correct corridor for the future?” and pointed out that 60 to 65 percent of Aspen’s work force does not live in the city and commutes into town.
Paulson held up a notebook full of signatures from citizens who signed a petition protesting the city of Aspen’s recent transfer of the modified direct right of way to CDOT.
“I don’t think you have checked in with the community on this,” he said. “I strongly suggest that you do not take a position on this until after the election.”
After the presentations and some additional discussion, eight members of the ACRA board voted to endorse the modified direct alignment, three voted no, and four abstained from voting.
[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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