Entrance group: vote no on bus lanes | AspenTimes.com

Entrance group: vote no on bus lanes

ASPEN Aspen voters might think a May vote authorizing two lanes of traffic plus bus lanes between Buttermilk and the Maroon Creek roundabout is a no-brainer, but a group of four-lane advocates is hoping to make them think again.Entrance Solution, the group that sued the city last year after officials refused to approve petitions the group intended to circulate to put a new entrance question before voters (a ruling is still pending in district court), is lobbying voters to reject the bus lane question the city will ask on the May 8 ballot.An e-mail Entrance Solution spokesman Jeffrey Evans issued Saturday urges the group’s supporters to spread the word: “Vote no on bus lanes. Say no to gridlock.”The rationale: A yes vote on the city’s question will be construed as tacit approval for the rest of the so-called “preferred alternative” for the entrance – an alternative that Entrance Solution contends does not have majority support among Aspen voters.Rather than approve the bus lanes, a component of the preferred alternative, Entrance Solution advocates rejecting the bus lanes to send a message to the Colorado Department of Transportation that the community wants a re-evaluation of the entrance plan as a whole and approval of a new alternative.Entrance Solution intends to “make certain that a ballot question is available to Aspen voters at this year’s November election” putting forth a new alternative, according to its e-mail.That alternative, according to Entrance Solution, will be realignment of Highway 82 across open space at the edge of town, between the roundabout and the upper end of Seventh Street. The route requires a new bridge over Castle Creek and bypasses the bottleneck at the S-curves, where the highway currently narrows to two lanes and winds through two 90-degree turns in the West End.That realignment also is envisioned in the preferred alternative – outlined in a 1998 Record of Decision the state issued – but the preferred alternative calls for two highway lanes for general traffic plus a light-rail transit system, with two dedicated bus lanes as an interim transit solution. In other words, all vehicular traffic would be limited to one lane in each direction, with buses getting a clear shot in their own, exclusive lanes.Entrance Solution advocates four lanes, with two designated as HOV, just as the highway is currently managed between Basalt and Buttermilk. Motorists are permitted in the HOV lanes along with buses, as long as vehicles contain at least two or three occupants, depending on the time of year. A common complaint among commuters is that the HOV regulations are unenforced and the lanes are nearly as clogged as the unrestricted lanes, due in part to single-occupant vehicles in the HOV lane.New to the Entrance Solution position is a compromise that allows the future construction of rail in addition to the four lanes for vehicles.The rail component is key to gaining majority support, according to Evans.”Although many highway supporters oppose the train, myself included, this compromise simply allows us to move forward while acknowledging that the rail issue will be back to be fought again,” Evans wrote in his e-mail. “From the perspective of people who favor both the four lane AND rail, this is exactly the proposal they want, and although they will have to accept that there is no guarantee rail will be built anytime soon, it certainly furthers their cause in a very big way. As for people who wanted rail as a way to block the highway, a few may grudgingly accept this as being better than nothing.”Facilitating a future rail line, when financing and community support materializes, “will now be a front-and-center component of our petitions,” he wrote.Rail, in the preferred alternative, would have a separate crossing at Maroon Creek, on the bridge that currently carries highway traffic. That bridge was originally constructed as a railroad trestle more than a century ago.With a new highway bridge over the Maroon Creek gorge under construction, the city wants voter approval to run dedicated bus lanes across the new span and to either side of it – an authorization that doesn’t currently exist. If voters reject the bus lanes, the bridge – though wide enough to accommodate four lanes of traffic – will likely open in 2008 with just two lanes of general traffic, one in each direction. To either side of the bridge, buses already use the outer lane, where it exists, as a defacto bus lane for some of the stretch between Buttermilk and the roundabout, but the bridge would remain a bottleneck where buses must merge back into general traffic.According to Entrance Solution, approving bus lanes on the bridge does nothing to alleviate the traffic jam in the S-curves, but will bring the preferred alternative – which the group also feels will do little to relieve congestion for the general commuter – one step closer to reality.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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