CDOT: Entrance solution stands test of time
November 16, 2006
State transportation officials believe their 1998 solution to the Entrance to Aspen has stood the test of time.At a meeting Thursday of the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, a CDOT representative said signs were good that, after an independent re-evaluation, the Environmental Impact Statement supporting the 1998 solution is still sound. The purpose of the re-evaluation was to determine whether the original project decisions are still legitimate before taking the next step.”All signals indicate the FEIS will be validated,” said Joe Elsen, program engineer with CDOT. He anticipates completion of the process by February.But approval of the Environmental Impact Statement is just a jumping-off point for a new round of discussions on the controversial Entrance to Aspen issue; any action would require critical open space votes in the city of Aspen and funding for the project.The 1998 solution called for two lanes of general traffic and two lanes of light rail crossing the Marolt Open Space and connecting to Main Street over Castle Creek.This new alignment would replace the existing S-curves.The current situation is bad and will get worse, according to Lucy Bowen of HDR Engineering, the company CDOT hired to do the evaluation.HDR engineers found that not only were the 1998 conditions of the study the same today, but current traffic “far exceeds roadway capacity,” especially at rush hour. A traffic analysis showed that the bottleneck entry is already at saturation, and increased volumes would mean longer and longer delays along Highway 82.Bowen said the city’s 1995 transportation management effort has helped keep traffic numbers near the goal of 1994 levels, but said that only improving the system of combined public transportation and general-purpose traffic will keep the levels down.At Thursday’s meeting, area elected officials approved $118,500 from the half-cent transit fund for a unique public process of open meetings, forums for debate, a website and other means of engaging citizens in dialogue on the issue.”If we go to a vote now, we might have the same result as in the past,” said Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud. The public participation process, she said, would “reacquaint the public with the history of the issue.”Public comment at the end of the meeting was a mix of hope and frustration.”I’ll be dead before I see a solution to this problem,” longtime Aspenite Sheldon Fingerman quipped. He said CDOT comes up with solutions and the EOTC only compromises.Curtis Vagneur said the more than one-hour wait for vacationers coming from the airport is a big problem.There have been 26 ballot questions over the 36 year history of the Entrance to Aspen debate. GrassRoots TV recently came out with a documentary about the saga which airs at 10 p.m. today, and 2 and 6 p.m. Sunday.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is email@example.com.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.