Entrance saga inspires video | AspenTimes.com

Entrance saga inspires video

Janet Urquhart

The snarl that is the Entrance to Aspen is the focus of a video outlining the divisive community debate over what to do about it. (Aspen Times file)

If only Aspen traffic moved as quickly as the movie it has inspired. “The Entrance to Aspen: How Did We Get Here?” bringing the resort’s thorniest debate to the big screen, premiered Wednesday morning to a small but rapt audience at the Wheeler Opera House.It’s an intriguing tale of mystery and suspense, or, at least, a fatiguing tale of history and expense.The 40-minute video summarizes three-plus decades of debate, studies, construction projects and more than two dozen votes on what to do with Highway 82 on the west side of town. With more twists than the S-curves, voter sentiment can be summed up as all over the map.An ensemble cast of locals – noticeably absent are the politicos who have shaped public discourse over the years – tries its best to explain the stalemate. Interspersed are scenes of traffic and illustrations of the existing alignment versus a proposal to reroute the highway across open space. The latter would bypass the S-curves, where the highway narrows through two 90-degree turns and traffic stalls faster than the debate over what to do about it.With the Entrance discussion poised to take center stage again, the city of Aspen produced the $25,000 video to give residents a crash course on the controversy.Local officials expect to learn next week whether decade-old approvals for realigning the highway and adding a light-rail corridor still pass muster with state and federal highway authorities. A locally funded re-evaluation of the environmental studies that supported the entrance plan is under way. The results are to be reported at a Nov. 16 meeting of the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, consisting of representatives from Aspen, Pitkin County and Snowmass Village.Whether community sentiment for the two-lane realignment plus light rail that won favor with city voters back in 1996 still exists or not remains to be seen. The validity of the plan, from the state and federal perspective, is likely to be the jumping-off point for a new round of discussion.And so, “The Entrance to Aspen: How Did We Get Here?” is both a sequel to the convoluted past and a prequel to the odds-on favorite for Aspen’s next bout of highway déjà vu.The video showed again Wednesday evening and is scheduled for screenings at 11:30 a.m. Friday and at 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, all at the Wheeler. Then it will air on local channel 11 and will soon to be available on DVD.The Nov. 16 EOTC meeting begins at 5 p.m. in the City Council’s chambers at Aspen City Hall. It will be televised on channel 11, a city representative said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com