City ready for S-curves experiment
Residents of the Cemetery Lane neighborhood will be turning right to go left sometime this spring.A split Aspen City Council agreed Tuesday to move forward with some of the ideas to alleviate congestion in the S-curves that were put forth by a citizen task force nearly a year and a half ago.Eliminating left turns out of Cemetery Lane onto Highway 82 during peak traffic hours was one of the task force’s recommendations. That will give upvalley traffic a continual green light to proceed toward town, but Cemetery Lane motorists will have to turn right and swing around the roundabout to head into Aspen.Modifying the signal lights and new signs at the intersection will cost nearly $40,000 for what council members agreed would be an experiment of an undetermined length.”What if, after a month, it’s a total disaster?” asked Mayor Helen Klanderud, who opposed the move.Councilman Terry Paulson predicted the action would improve traffic flow and pushed the city to implement it as quickly as possible. Paulson doesn’t own a car but has had ample opportunity of late to observe Aspen traffic jams in his new job as a taxi driver.”I think this spring is the time to experiment with that Cemetery Lane light before the summer crunch,” he said. “This driving a taxi thing has really enlightened me a lot.”Councilman Torre advocated the change, as well, but Klanderud and Councilwoman Rachel Richards opposed it, leaving the council deadlocked, with Councilman Tim Semrau absent.Richards acquiesced.”I have my doubts, but I’ll go along with it,” she said. “It may be something that will always be hanging out there till it’s tried.”In a discussion last June, however, Richards – along with Paulson – was keen on altering the operation of the Cemetery Lane light before last summer was over. The Colorado Department of Transportation issued permits for the various S-curves proposals last September. Final plans will also need CDOT’s OK.The S-curves, where Highway 82 narrows to two lanes and winds through a pair of 90-degree turns at the entrance to town, is the site of traffic backups, especially during peak commuting hours.Last night, the council also agreed to move forward with crosswalk and bus stop improvements at Eighth and Hallam streets in the S-curves, at an estimated cost of $53,130, and blocking off side-street access to the S-curves at several points, using flower planters or some other temporary fixture.Some council members predicted a backlash from residents over the moves, but Torre stressed the changes are taking place on a trial basis.”If everyone knows this is an experiment and we’re trying to make transit better in this town, there might be some community buy-in,” he reasoned.Torre also favored a dedicated outbound lane for buses on Main Street, recommended by the task force, even though it means losing parking on both sides of the street. Other council members weren’t willing to take that step, which would entail a costly restriping project on Main.Implementing all of the task force recommendations carried a $526,440 estimated price tag.Richards expressed doubt that the added benefits in traffic flow would be worth the cost.”I’d have to say I’m really having trouble with these,” she said. “I haven’t heard a lot of public support for implementing any of these changes.”It’s $526,000 to grease a peg that’s too big for the hole,” Richards added later.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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