An entrance election by next winter?
ASPEN Organizers of a petition effort to put two four-lane alternatives for the Entrance to Aspen before city voters are now aiming for an election on the contentious issue next winter.Entrance Solution, spearheaded by four-lane advocate Jeffrey Evans, began circulating two petitions in May and has collected about two-thirds of the roughly 750 signatures that are necessary on each of them to put the initiatives on a ballot. The group was originally targeting this week to finish collecting signatures from registered Aspen voters, intending to turn them over to the city clerk’s office for verification with the expectation that some of the signatures would be invalid and another round of gathering signatures might be necessary. The ultimate goal was to put both questions before voters in November. That is no longer the case, Evans said Tuesday.It appears there may be no need for a November election, as this is an off year for elections on the national level. At present, there are no state or local questions pending that would require a November election unless Entrance Solution forces a special election then.”The last thing we want is to be the only thing on the ballot in the middle of November,” Evans said. “Better to have it when everybody’s here.”Instead, the group will time the submittal of its petitions with an eye toward forcing a special election during the height of the ski season, when local voters are in town and when traffic at the entrance is clogged – “at a time when they’re reminded they have a problem,” Evans said.In early November, traffic is likely to be light, and many locals will disappear on vacations before the busy winter begins.The petition effort seeks to put two similar questions before city voters. Both propose a four-lane highway, with one HOV lane in each direction, routed over open space between the Maroon Creek Road roundabout and the upper end of Main Street, crossing Castle Creek over a new bridge. In both cases, the HOV lane would operate as the existing HOV lanes do on Highway 82 between Basalt and Buttermilk – open only to vehicles with multiple occupants during peak commuting hours. The difference between the two proposals is a “cut-and-cover” tunnel that would take the highway essentially underground across part of the open space. One petition includes the feature, the other doesn’t.Both proposals also include a transit envelope for a future light-rail system.Entrance Solution wants both questions on the ballot with the hope of getting majority support for one of them, according to Evans. If both pass, the one garnering more support would take precedence, he said.If the group can get a plan for the highway approved by voters next winter, it will then focus on a countywide initiative to seek funding to build whatever voters approve for the entrance, presuming at least one of the initiatives prevails at the polls and that the state doesn’t come up with the money to build the project.The funding vote would occur in November 2008, when voter turnout should be high, as the ballot will also feature a presidential election.Plus, if one of the initiatives wins approval, Entrance Solution can promote a funding question that feeds off the proposal voters endorse – “kind of use one to leverage the other,” Evans said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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