City pursues study of West End traffic |

City pursues study of West End traffic

John Colson

City officials recently decided to go ahead with a study of the traffic burden borne by Aspen’s historic West End neighborhood each summer.

City Hall has hoped for a speedy study so the results can be used to answer neighbors’ complaints in time for the 1999 Aspen Music Festival summer schedule.

But at least one key neighborhood resident, George Vicenzi, is suggesting that haste is not a good idea.

City Manager Amy Margerum has hired a Boulder consultant, Charlier and Associates, to conduct a study of traffic patterns and congestion in the West End related to the summer Aspen Music Festival concerts. Margerum said Charlier will be paid on a “per hour” basis, although she was unsure exactly what the rate of pay is to be.

The concerts take place at the Aspen Music Festival Tent, which is located at the northern edge of the West End neighborhood.

The concert traffic has been a bitter bone of contention for some time among representatives of the city, the Music Associates of Aspen and the residents of the West End.

City officials have required the MAA to arrange for buses to carry music students and concertgoers through the West End, where residents have complained for years about cars parking all over the streets, alleyways and on occasion even the front lawns of the homes there.

But once the buses began running through the neighborhood, residents complained the big vehicles were noisy, smelly and detracted from the quality of life there. Several years of negotiations among the parties led last year to a compromise agreement, and last summer the buses ran on alternating streets. The smaller, less noisy buses for students going to rehearsals ran on Fourth and Sixth streets, while the larger buses, carrying crowds of patrons for the actual concerts, ran on Third and Fifth streets.

But neighborhood complaints persisted, and the city decided to hire a professional to study the situation and issue a report by the end of February. Armed with those study results, the city hoped to institute any needed changes in the transportation system to accommodate the neighbors and meet the needs of the MAA.

But now, Margerum said, the neighbors say the alternating streets schedule has improved conditions, and they want another summer of experience with this arrangement before any decisions are made.

“We were hoping this would be done last fall,” Vicenzi said this week. But since it wasn’t, he said, the city needs to take its time and “do this correctly” in order to make the right decisions.

Vicenzi said that, for one thing, the Roaring Fork Transit Agency, which runs the buses at the MAA’s expense, was unable to make use of lighter, less polluting carbon fiber buses last summer as extensively as was hoped. He said the neighbors feel there should be another summer’s test of this type of bus, in order to truly evaluate their performance.

Plus, Vicenzi maintained, if Charlier’s study shows a need for the kind of programmatic changes that might cost either RFTA or the city some money, it probably could not be worked into the 1999 budgets for either agency at this point.

So, Vicenzi said, he is hoping Charlier will gather information from the neighbors this spring, submit a report to the city containing any “simple, low-cost solutions” that can be tried this summer during concert season, and then at the end of the summer everything can be evaluated.

“We feel we’d rather wait another summer and have it done correctly, than have it done quickly and maybe not comprehensively,” Vicenzi said.

Charlier said Tuesday he will be submitting a timeline for the study, as well as a budget explaining how much the study is to cost, within a week or so.

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