City gives green light to improving S-curves |

City gives green light to improving S-curves

Janet UrquhartAspen Times Staff Writer

An estimated $1.15 million in improvements to the S-curves that would cut travel times for buses leaving Aspen in half won endorsement Tuesday from the Aspen City Council.The changes would lop a little over a minute off the trip out of town for private vehicles during the peak afternoon commute, and upvalley traffic would get through the S-curves slightly faster, as well, according to an engineering analysis of improvements at Aspens entrance.The ideas to improve traffic flow came out of a city-appointed task force last year. The group studied the S-curves the bottleneck where Highway 82 narrows to two lanes and winds through a pair of 90-degree turns on the west side of town and recommended a variety of physical and operational changes that it thought could be done fairly quickly and cheaply.The $1.15 million is a rough estimate, stressed engineer Nick Senn of Turner Collie & Braden, who worked with the task force.It would buy street and alley closures in the S-curves, the re-striping of Main Street to create a bus-only outbound lane during the peak afternoon commute, an improved bus stop and pedestrian crossing at Eighth Street, Castle Creek bridge improvements and several redesigned intersections, including modifications at Cemetery Lane.Buses heading out of town in the afternoon would enjoy the greatest gain, according to Senn. The trip from Garmisch Street to the roundabout currently averages 7 minutes; it would be cut to 3.5 minutes. A motorists travel time would drop from 6.8 minutes to 5.4 minutes.I think its time to actually do something to improve our situation, said Councilman Tim Semrau, urging the city to take the proposals to the Colorado Department of Transportation, which must authorize some of the changes.Whats the time line for getting this implemented like, now? Councilman Terry Paulson asked.The proposals chosen by the city include changes to the Cemetery Lane intersection that would allow upvalley traffic to flow straight through without ever stopping for a red light. Only upvalley motorists turning left onto the side street would be controlled by the signal light. Motorists coming out of Cemetery Lane would not be allowed to turn left onto the highway, at least at peak times. Theyd have to head down to the roundabout and turn around to drive into Aspen.Mayor Helen Klanderud called for the no-left-turn restriction only when necessary.Its ridiculous to have that in place 24 hours a day, she said.I realize its controversial, but I would support no left turns at Cemetery Lane, said Councilwoman Rachel Richards. She also lauded the bus-only lane on the north side of Main Street, though Senn warned its likely to result in the loss of the parking lane on the south side of the street.Several council members indicated theyd like engineers to re-examine task force member Bill Weiners ideas. He offered a minority report to the council that proposed four lanes through the S-curves, which he contends can be done within the existing right of way.The council did not discuss how to pay for the improvements, though a transit fund controlled by upvalley governments was noted as a possible source for transit-related improvements.Staffers have recommended public hearings before the changes are implemented.[Janet Urquharts e-mail address is]