Arguments to consider | AspenTimes.com

Arguments to consider

By granting an easement to the Colorado Department of Transportation, Aspen City Council gave CDOT the right to destroy dedicated open space at the Entrance to Aspen to build a four-lane highway straight shot into Aspen.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision unequivocally established that dedicated open space may not be violated by transportation easements unless no prudent and feasible alternative exists. The existing highway entrance clearly serves as a prudent and feasible alternative.

The Marolt Open Space presents an irreplaceable aesthetic amenity at the entrance to town. Enormous and lengthy construction at the entrance to town will damage the tourist industry on which our economy depends.

After completion of construction, the permanent loss of green space at the entrance to town and its replacement by highways, tunnels, highway department paraphernalia and unnatural landscaping will forever degrade the experience of entering Aspen.

The council has unwisely agreed to trade prime open space at the Entrance to Aspen for relatively valueless land surrounding a park-and-ride, five miles distant from Aspen’s city limits. Council undertook this action without adequate notice to the public, rushed it through the process and approved it by a split vote.

An action with such enormous consequences for the future of Aspen should be taken only with the express approval of a clear majority of voters; the last vote on this issue was in May, 2001, when voters rejected the easement across Marolt.

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The vote in 1996 approved an easement for rail, not for a four-lane highway; that vote is now six years old, and was superseded by the 2001 vote against the easement. The presently constituted electorate should have the opportunity to vote on the current proposal.

The easement that council has granted to CDOT allows for two lanes of highway (euphemistically called ?parkway?) which is what we presently already have. The equivalent of two additional lanes is also granted as a ?corridor? for future use.

There is no guarantee of the future use of the additional lanes. Since CDOT will have control of the easement, and CDOT builds highways not rapid transit, and has publicly articulated the goal of completing the four-lane into Aspen, it is highly likely that an unrestricted four-lane highway will be the eventual result, with no accommodation for rapid transit.

The only immediate benefit of this two-lane highway straight shot is reducing the time it takes a car to traverse a short distance on the way into town. Once into town, cars will simply be slowed down there, instead of by the existing S-curves.

The S-curves presently do an excellent job of quieting down traffic before it enters town. Aspen is a destination town and should not be bifurcated by a four-lane highway.

Instead of inviting more cars to enter Aspen at a more rapid rate, public officials should direct their efforts toward reducing vehicular traffic entering Aspen, and toward providing non-polluting, alternative, public transportation within the city.

I wrote the above arguments which were adopted as the text of a petition circulated by citizens during a brief period last off-season, and signed by some 1,500 people in the valley, more than 800 of them registered Aspen voters.

Please consider these arguments before voting.

Katharine Thalberg

Aspen