Council agrees to 20-mph limit for most Aspen streets |

Council agrees to 20-mph limit for most Aspen streets

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – The out-of-the-box idea of a 14-mph or 18-mph speed limit for most Aspen streets was scrapped Tuesday by a majority of City Council members.

Mayor Mick Ireland and other council members suggested the unusual numbers in January as a catchy way of getting drivers to slow down in the West End and other neighborhoods. Residents long have complained to the city that the 25-mph limit for Aspen streets is too fast for many areas, especially the West End, which some motorists cut through as a way of avoiding Main Street congestion and the S-curves.

City Engineer Trish Aragon presented two speed-limit options during the council’s work session Tuesday. In the end, council members chose a 20-mph limit, with a few exceptions: Main Street, a state highway, which will remain 25 mph; the city’s short stretches of Castle Creek and Maroon Creek roads, which will remain 30 mph; and Cemetery Lane, which will remain 25 mph.

Councilman Derek Johnson said he still preferred 18 mph or 19 mph for city streets, noting that the oddity generated national attention when it was brought up nearly two months ago. But Councilman Adam Frisch said he wasn’t sure whether the press the city received – publications such as Time magazine and the L.A. Times picked up the story – could be considered positive marketing.

Other council members said that an unusual number might prove confusing to most motorists.

Aragon cautioned council members that speed-limit reductions don’t necessarily mean that drivers will slow down. She displayed a graphic under the title “Changing Speed Limit Does Not Change Behavior” to show that reductions or increases in limits often result in higher accident rates. The graphic was based on various studies.

Her recommendation, which the council rejected, was a slight variation from the one council members chose. It called for 20 mph with the same exceptions for Main Street, Castle Creek and Maroon Creek roads and Cemetery Lane but kept a 25 mph limit for certain areas of town where motorists are used to driving faster: Gibson Avenue near Park Circle, Neale Avenue at the No Problem Joe Bridge, Park Circle near Brown Lane, Mill Street and Ute Avenue.

Councilman Torre called for a 20 mph limit for the stretches of Castle Creek and Maroon Creek roads that are inside the city limits, such as near Aspen Valley Hospital and the Aspen School District complex. His idea did not find the support of his peers.

Torre said he would be willing to explore an unusual speed limit of 18 mph on one or two streets as an experiment, but he wasn’t in favor of implementing it citywide.

Councilman Steve Skadron said he favored the 20 mph limit with the four exceptions partly because it was cheaper. A few signs on each end of town that read 20 mph “unless otherwise posted” will only cost $300.

As for the West End, a memorandum from Aragon to the council dispels the notion that speeding is a problem there.

“In reality, the actual speed of vehicles in the West End is below 20 mph,” she wrote.

The 20 mph won’t go into effect immediately. City staff will write an ordinance proposing the change in the near future and present it to the council for an official vote.

Ireland, who is representing Aspen’s Sister Cities program in Abetone, Italy, was not present for the meeting. Abetone is seeking to join the program.

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