City will close off West End detour
Local transportation officials are hoping to keep commuters from detouring through Aspen’s West End as they try to avoid the afternoon rush hour traffic jam on Main Street.
Starting Monday, there will be no left turns allowed from Power Plant Road onto Cemetery Lane between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., the Aspen police and city administration announced Wednesday.
Traffic heading for McLain Flats Road can make a right turn off Power Plant Road, however.
“This action is being taken to help facilitate the flow of traffic on Highway 82 by minimizing merging traffic,” said a statement from City Hall, “and to decrease congestion in the West End by eliminating the severe bottleneck at the Power Plant Road/Cemetery Lane intersection.
“Drivers leaving town between 3:30 and 6 p.m., headed to destinations between Cemetery Lane and Smith Road, are advised to remain on Highway 82 rather than using Power Plant Road,” the release concluded.
According to Assistant Chief Keith Ikeda of the Aspen Police Department, there will be a police officer on duty for “the first few days” of the new traffic arrangement, but not as a general rule after that.
“What we’re trying to do is to get that flow going,” Ikeda said, explaining that the backup of cars from the Power Plant Road/Cemetery Lane intersection has gotten so bad it is causing traffic to back up onto Smuggler Street and into the West End. The traffic jams, while commonplace in Aspen’s summers, are being exacerbated by the construction of the roundabout at Maroon Creek and Highway 82.
In addition to the Smuggler Street backups, Ikeda said, the police department has received “a ton of complaints” from West End residents about cars using their neighborhood as a detour when traffic backs up on Main Street.
Similar complaints were lodged by West End residents in 1993 when the city put an HOV lane into effect on Main Street, in an attempt to encourage motorists to either carpool or use buses more often.
The HOV lane actually worsened the afternoon rush hour traffic jams on Main Street, and prompted motorists to turn off onto the side streets and onto Power Plant Road.
“Anytime there’s a backup on Main Street, the secondary roads are going to see more traffic,” Ikeda confirmed.
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