Aspen kills traffic experiment on Cemetery Lane
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Left turns from Power Plant Road onto Cemetery Lane are no longer a no-no, Aspen officials announced Wednesday.
The experiment – intended to keep motorists on Main Street/Highway 82 as they left town instead of cutting through the West End – started June 28. The restriction was in effect during the peak hours of afternoon outbound traffic, Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. It generated plenty of complaints from commuters trying to get out of town.
The city expected the restriction to reduce West End traffic and speed up traffic on Highway 82 by stopping drivers from “cutting in line” from Cemetery Lane. But City Manager Steve Barwick said that didn’t work. Instead, it created more dangerous scenarios by forcing some drivers to improvise, “turning around and creating conflicts with pedestrians and bicycles” on Cemetery Lane, according to a city press release.
Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor said his staff policed the intersection fairly thinly during the first several weeks of the project, dedicating one officer every afternoon, but ramped up enforcement in the past five or six days with between three and five officers stationed in the area.
“About midweek last week, we felt we weren’t really being effective,” Pryor said, because the officers were either spreading information to motorists or patrolling, but never doing both simultaneously.
He estimated that during the 17 days of the effort, there were between 15 and 20 traffic stops every day at the intersection.
The Aspen City Council will work through other ideas to alleviate the traffic problem, Barwick said.
“We’ll continue to experiment with ways to make the existing infrastructure work as well as possible,” he said.
He said the city previously conducted a similar previous experiment to prevent left turns onto Highway 82 from Cemetery Lane, but canceled it after outcry from neighborhood residents.
“That had some positive effects on the traffic, but was disappointing to people who live on Cemetery Lane,” he said.
Former Aspen Mayor Bill Stirling, who lives on West Smuggler Street, called the West End route to Highway 82 a “safety valve.” He lauded the city’s decision to reopen the left turn from Power Plant Road.
“It’s a public thoroughfare; it’s a public right of way,” Stirling said, adding that the experiment was ineffective. “I don’t think it’s in the long-term best interest of the community, and I don’t think it even had a good effect in the short term.”
Jim Markalunas, another West End resident, disagreed, saying the project had the good intention of holding traffic queues in order.
“I think they should have tried it a little longer,” he said. “It keeps people from cutting in line.”
Detailed traffic information from the experiment will soon be released, Barwick said in the press release.
The city said it is still best to stay on Highway 82 to get out of town because it is more direct and safer than any other route.
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Max Weintraub has been senior curator at the Aspen Art Museum since January 2019.