Aspen officials hire PR firm for entrance public education effort |

Aspen officials hire PR firm for entrance public education effort

Entrance to Aspen on top of mind for Aspen City Council

Outbound worker traffic stacks up on Main Street during rush hour in Aspen during the summer.
Daniel Bayer/Special to Aspen Journalism

Aspen City Council on Tuesday approved a contract for nearly $89,000 that is part of a public education campaign about the past, present and future of the Entrance to Aspen.

The contract with Darnauer-Manifest Communications includes $58,950 for the base scope of work and $29,539 for additional services for radio and social media support.

Recognizing that there has not been public dialogue around the Entrance to Aspen for almost two decades, council last year agreed to earmark $150,000 for a community education campaign about the record of decision rendered in 1998 by the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

After years of analysis, public debate and policy work, the record of decision’s preferred alternative identifies the Entrance to Aspen as a two-lane parkway that goes under the Marolt-Thomas Open Space via a cut-and-cover tunnel that has a transit component including a light rail system and ends up on Seventh and Main streets leading to Rubey Park.

The current public campaign’s goal is to create a shared understanding in the community of what the Entrance to Aspen project is, which elements of it have already been implemented and what the challenges are ahead, according to City Engineer Trish Aragon and Assistant City Manager Diane Foster.

While the preferred alternative has laid dormant due to negating public votes and conflicting political wills, the record of decision was revisited in 2007, but there was no consensus in the community to carry it forward.

Councilwoman Rachel Richards said during Tuesday’s regular meeting that she, like many residents, has been concerned about growing traffic congestion, especially in the West End neighborhood which is used as an alternative to Main Street in the afternoon rush hour.

“I greatly appreciate council’s support of $150,000 to basically bring the record of decision on the entrance to Highway 82 up to modern standards,” she said. “We will have the information digitized and online and be able to reintroduce this to the so many people who are new to our community.”

The public education effort will include an Entrance to Aspen website and document library, a print campaign, a community survey and polling, open houses and videos appearing on GrassRoots TV.

There are three components to the project, including technical analysis, video production services and community education.

The technical analysis is estimated to cost $24,957. The city has a contract with HNTP Corp. for this portion of the work, which is to obtain clarity around the current state of the record of decision, engage with CDOT, and do a risk analysis of opening the record of decision and potential funding of a future solution.

Within the existing budget, $29,280 is being utilized to develop two videos. One will be a long-form informative video that is approximately four to six minutes in length and describes the project in depth.

A second short-form version is envisioned to be no longer than 90 seconds and is a concise summary of the project, which will be formatted for social media use.

The videos are intended to educate and inform Aspen residents and the public about the proposed improvements to the Entrance to Aspen, the record of decision and project development.

The third component, which is the $88,489 contract with Darnauer-Manifest Communications, includes updating the website and document library, a print and social media education campaign, open houses, media support and polling at the end of the public education process.

City officials are interested in resurrecting the Entrance to Aspen conversation not only to educate new residents and refamiliarize longtime Aspenites, but also to address traffic coming in and out of town and replacing an aging Castle Creek Bridge.

The 60-year-old bridge also acts as the emergency egress that is critical for both mass evacuation and first responders’ access to the hospital.

Richards said now is the time to act on federal infrastructure money becoming available for local governments and agencies.

“I think if we miss this window, we will be living with an old bridge that has maybe 20 years of useful life and be struggling to figure out how to manage it if it gets weight restricted or if it fails before we have a new bridge in place,” she said.

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