Basalt endorses intersection changes
At least Basalt officials know someone is paying attention.
The Town Council was flooded last night with written comments both in support and against drastic changes made to the main intersection downtown.
The town government eliminated turning lanes on Two Rivers Road and Midland Avenue last week. The lanes were pinched – with curved, yellow-striped shapes on the asphalt called elephant ears – to accommodate new diagonal parking that was added on Two Rivers Road and to make the intersection safer for pedestrians.
The Aspen Times reported Monday that critics were first out of the gate. Comments collected at the Midland Depot-Phillips 66 station in downtown Basalt showed the vast majority of motorists stopping there panned the changes to the intersection.
But supporters rallied Tuesday by showing up at the council meeting or by turning in written comments of their own.
Liz Phillips of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce submitted 17 comments made by members. All but four supported the changes to the intersection.
Two supporters – Ted Guy and George Trantow – both told the council to hang in there despite some criticism.
“Please remember most people are upset by change,” wrote Guy. “Let this experiment proceed until November at least.”
Trantow congratulated the town for making the changes. “Some people will complain no matter what … so disregard them and continue to improve Basalt. You did good!” he wrote.
Trantow’s letter contained the same praise heaped on the project by most supporters – it adds much-needed parking to the downtown area and makes the intersection safer. He suggested making the intersection more appealing with planters and shade trees.
Evelyn Albert wrote that the changes should improve traffic flow as well. “As a driver, I also find it less confusing to have just the two lanes at this intersection,” she said.
But critics feel strongly that the intersection will make congestion worse. Scott Levine, owner of the Midland Depot, turned in roughly 30 comments from customers. A quick glance indicated all but one opposed the changes.
Speaking for himself, Levine said he appreciated the additional parking but feared the tight corners created at the reconfigured intersection would make it too difficult for tractor-trailers, some campers and vehicles pulling boats to easily maneuver.
Among the comments he turned over, more than one critic wondered why the public wasn’t consulted before the changes were made. Basalt Town Council members defended their staff’s right to implement the project without prior public hearings. The council also endorsed the project.
Mayor Rick Stevens said that the intersection was becoming unmanageable as it existed. There were three lanes of traffic in both directions on Two Rivers Road and two lanes each direction on Midland Avenue. As motorists came to a stop at the intersection, there was confusion and sometimes impatience over who could proceed next.
“People have forgotten to take turns,” Stevens said. He previously said he wanted to do whatever is necessary to avoid a stop light there.
Although the council endorsed the changes, they also acknowledged that adjustments might be necessary. Town staff will consider suggestions before changes are made more permanent with curbing this fall.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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