Entrance question too vague
October 28, 2002
Friends have told me that they’ve heard I am now “for the S-curves” and have asked whether this means I’ve changed views on the entrance to Aspen since leaving elected office.
The answer is “no” on both counts: I do not support keeping the S-curves long-term for the simple reason that they do not offer a long-term solution to our transportation problems.
Nonetheless, I am still voting my preference in favor of the S-curves over the straight shot in this election. My reason lies in the dangerously vague ballot language, which asks only our preference between S-curves and straight shot ? without answering the obvious question: “For what?”
The ballot language ignores the all-important issue of what would cross Marolt Park if we chose the straight shot. If we voters say, in effect, “Dig up Marolt Park, and build whatever you want,” we would be handing future elected officials a rather large blank check, one I am not comfortable writing.
What would we be “preferring” for Marolt Park? A two-lane, a four-lane, a six-lane, two bus lanes, an intercept parking lot?
In 1996, a large majority of voters approved the “Parkway/Rail Plan,” which called for a two-lane parkway plus light rail across Marolt.
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The Colorado Department of Transportation Environmental Impact Statement chose essentially the same plan, allowing also an interim busway. If our elected officials asked us today to reaffirm our ?96 vote, I would gladly do so, but that is not on the ballot.
The Parkway/Rail Plan was a community compromise forged by the Entrance to Aspen Citizen Task Force, a huge citizen-planning effort. Twenty-five valley citizens ? some four-lane proponents, some mass transit believers, some from Aspen, some from Snowmass and Basalt ? spent close to three years reviewing countless engineering studies and budgets before coming to consensus (24 out of 25) on the plan that voters endorsed in 1996.
Why does today’s ballot ignore both that effort and the ?96 vote? Such community compromises are not forged easily ? nor do Aspen citizens take lightly the idea of digging up park land for civic “improvements.”
To win our votes, today’s elected officials owe us a far higher level of specificity about their plans for this, the most visible open space in Aspen.
Our quality of life and our economic vitality depend equally on that elusive but critically important quality we refer to as our unique community character. Why gamble with it?
For this election, at least, I “prefer” the S-curves.
John S. Bennett
Former Aspen mayor