Bus lane coming to Main Street | AspenTimes.com

Bus lane coming to Main Street

Joel Stonington

A new Main Street bus lane and permanent side-street closures at the S-curves will go into effect this spring, officials in charge of local transportation issues decided Thursday.The Elected Officials Transportation Committee voted Thursday to spend $318,000 on the measures.The EOTC estimates the changes will cut the time it takes Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses to get out of town by an average of more than three minutes – as much as 10-15 minutes on peak afternoons. The bus lane will eliminate 80 parking spaces on Main Street.”This will absolutely be a big benefit for transit users,” said Dan Blankenship, chief executive officer of RFTA.The meeting, however, divided the EOTC. Pitkin County Commissioner Jack Hatfield, an EOTC member, said there would be no benefit during the morning commute and time savings would be minimal compared to how long people spend in traffic. “This is a Band-Aid,” Hatfield said.And Snowmass Village Town Councilman John Wilkinson didn’t like eliminating the parking spaces.”What about impact to businesses?” he said. “Are you going to have tow trucks out there every day moving cars?”Snowmass Village Councilman Arnie Mordkin said Aspen residents should foot the bill, given the many city votes that have not solved the S-curves and Entrance to Aspen traffic jams. The EOTC, made up of Aspen, Snowmass and Pitkin County elected officials, controls the revenues of a half-cent, countywide sales tax dedicated to transit.”The real issue is, if this is so regional, let the whole region decide,” Mordkin said. “If we let the whole region decide, then we wouldn’t be here today.”EOTC members were visibly frustrated at times, prompting certain members to encourage everyone to work together. “If we start fragmenting decisions and fighting turf wars, then we’re all lost,” Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud said.The $318,000 price tag includes $108,000 for the Main Street bus lane, $90,000 for Eighth Street improvements for pedestrians and bus stop improvements, $40,000 for modifications to Seventh and Hallam streets, and $80,000 for the access closures of Bleeker Street, the alley between Bleeker and Hallam, Hallam and North Seventh streets.”We really need to do something in the short term while you folks figure something out for the long term,” Blankenship said.New evaluation for Entrance to AspenA study on the Entrance to Aspen will undergo a new evaluation, a first step to a long-term solution to traffic congestion during commutes in and out of town.The Elected Officials Transportation Committee unanimously voted Thursday to fund a $200,000 written evaluation of the final environmental impact statement on the entrance completed in 1997.The 1997 study is out of date, and the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration require a new evaluation before any major changes to Highway 82. “To delay taking the first step doesn’t get us any closer,” Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud said.In all likelihood, this is only the beginning. The evaluation may lead to an entirely new environmental impact statement with a total cost of up to $3 million in the next three years. “There’s no easy answers here,” said Aspen City Councilwoman Rachel Richards. “It’s hard to turn back to the voters and say, ‘the Colorado Department of Transportation doesn’t have any money, so we’re going to live with this for another 10 years.'”Though the vote was unanimous, it was also contentious. The Colorado Department of Transportation does not expect any funding for the issue before 2012.”Is the cart before the horse?” Pitkin County Commissioner Jack Hatfield said. “We get a new supplemental [environmental impact statement] that’s getting dustier and dustier year by year because there’s no funding.”Deciding to fund the evaluation was something of a leap of faith. One of the major possibilities would redirect the highway over open space, which would require the approval of Aspen voters. “Roads aren’t going to sprout,” Snowmass Village Councilman Arnie Mordkin said. “What if it comes back and says we have to go across Marolt [Open Space]. Are you going to support that?”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com


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