City Council stuck in traffic quandary | AspenTimes.com

City Council stuck in traffic quandary

Janet Urquhart

Aspen’s traffic jams left the City Council as stymied Monday as the resort’s commuters have been for much of the summer.Council members agreed they need to press for both short- and long-term solutions to alleviate what has become a major gripe for anyone traveling in and out of town each morning and afternoon. The problem consumed much of the council’s time yesterday, during the opening day of a two-day retreat in an Aspen Alps condo, and traffic will be back on their agenda today.”I think we need to put everything back on the table – all possibilities – rethink the whole traffic/transportation situation,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud.She likened the situation to a hemorrhaging patient, urging her colleagues to apply a tourniquet now, while there’s still some five weeks of summer remaining, and come up with a long-term solution later.”You’d better stop the bleeding now, or you’ll have a dead patient,” Klanderud said.The council was unanimously willing to consider solutions. “But what?” summed up Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss.The city is already poised to repeat its S-curves experiment next month, implementing no-left turns at Cemetery Lane during peak periods and closing off side street and alley access in the S-curves, but Klanderud and Councilwoman Rachel Richards both voiced support for trying an outbound, buses-only lane on Main Street, though that may not be possible before summer is over.Afternoon bus riders, stuck in traffic with everyone else, are reporting trips to Glenwood Springs that approach two hours – half of it spent in the first five miles out of town. That’s not a way to encourage use of mass transit, Klanderud conceded.Three to four hours a day spent commuting to and from Glenwood is “unconscionable,” Richards added.Other ideas that surfaced yesterday included police officers manually operating the signal lights at Cemetery Lane and Truscott (which has been tried before) or encouraging parking at the airport with free shuttles operating every 10 minutes to entice people out of their vehicles.Klanderud suggested taking a hard line in land-use approvals to regulate construction traffic.”When do we say ‘no more cars in town?’ At what point do we say, ‘Wait, you can’t have three major projects, four major projects, going simultaneously?'” she said.”I don’t mean to be flip, but what we’re doing is smearing deodorant on a corpse,” DeVilbiss said. “We need to get serious about long-term solutions.”Richards pegged light-rail as the city’s best, long-term solution to mass transit and traffic, but she suggested the city pay to re-stripe Main Street/Highway 82 for an outbound, buses-only lane this fall and try it for the winter.The city had considered letting the Colorado Department of Transportation absorb that cost when it re-stripes the highway next spring. Instead, CDOT could restore it to its current configuration next spring if the city decides it doesn’t like it this winter, Richards said.The city has set a goal of maintaining traffic at 1993 levels; so far this year, several months have exceeded monthly traffic counts in 1993, while others have seen less traffic.”People don’t experience it on an annual average – they experience it on a daily basis,” noted Randy Ready, assistant city manager.City Manager Steve Barwick urged the council to make the issue a priority.”If we don’t make significant progress, you’re going to look back on your term in office and say ‘oops,'” he predicted.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com