Aspen needs to take lead on transportation |

Aspen needs to take lead on transportation

It’s time for the Aspen City Council to show some political courage on the ever-thorny issue of transportation and give citizens, visitors, and employees who reside downvalley viable alternatives to the status quo.

For far too long, elected and appointed officials at the city have allowed the situation to fester, providing only piecemeal fixes. As a result, we may now end up with the “solution” abhorred by most: four lanes of pavement across our cherished open space.

Highway proponent (and transit opponent) Jeffrey Evans is suing the city in an effort to allow voters to decide whether they support a four-lane extension of Highway 82 across the Marolt Open Space to a new bridge that connects directly with Main Street. Evans, a Basalt resident, has been joined in his effort by Aspen’s Curtis Vagneur. They took their cause to court after Aspen City Clerk Kathryn Koch rejected their initiative on the basis that it interferes with the city’s administrative functions.

Given the fact that voters have sounded off on the Entrance to Aspen multiple times in the last 10 years, there’s a real chance the courts will overturn Koch’s ruling. Voters will then be presented with one and only one choice: four lanes across the open space or the status quo.

Anyone caught in one of those inexplicable midmorning backups from Buttermilk to the airport or in the afternoon backups from Truscott to Mill Street will tell you that the status quo is not acceptable.

Aspenites have a long tradition of supporting transit. The community has been a principal source of funding of bus service since the 1980s. In 1996, voters even agreed to a plan that would allow two lanes of traffic and light rail line across the Marolt Open Space. Voters rejected a mistimed vote on funding the light rail system a few years later, effectively ending the community’s consideration of big solutions to a big problem.

The Evans/Vagneur initiative would let the Colorado Department of Transportation decide whether to designate one lane in each direction for transit use. We think that should be a decision made here at home.

It’s better that we consider transit-oriented solutions before paving the problem away for a few years. But those more enlightened solutions may not be heard without some serious leadership from the Aspen City Council.

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