Entrance vote: What haven’t we asked yet? | AspenTimes.com

Entrance vote: What haven’t we asked yet?

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen voters could be asked to rank various options for the Entrance to Aspen in order of personal preference with the new voting equipment the city expects to have in place by November.

The system allows voters to rank candidates, eliminating the need for separate runoff elections, but it could also be used to rank alternatives for the controversial entrance.

A ballot that lets voters weigh in on the options by designating their top pick, No. 2 choice and so on is but one option the Aspen City Council will have an opportunity to consider at a work session on Tuesday.

City staffers have prepared a memo offering “food for thought” to the council, as opposed to recommendations on potential ballot questions.

The city could attempt to measure the public’s preference for various alternatives – keep the “S-curves,” build a realigned four-lane highway with HOV lanes, build a two-lane highway with a light-rail corridor or build a two-lane highway with dedicated bus lanes – for example.

The council could also choose to ask the question put forth by the Citizens for a Small Town Entrance, asking voters if the city should transfer open space to the state for the realignment of Highway 82 across the Marolt-Thomas Open Space – the so-called “straight shot” (see related story).

As another variation on the realignment theme, the city could ask voters if it should continue to focus its efforts on funding and constructing a highway and transit improvements across the open space, the memo suggests.

Councilman Tony Hershey has his own idea for a ballot question: “Should all mass-transit alternatives be limited to the S-curves?”

“If the answer is `no,’ it gets the S-curves off the table,” Hershey reasoned. If the answer is “yes,” the straight shot is out of the running.

“That’s my question, but no one’s going to go for that,” he said.

In 1996, voters OK’d the straight shot, with a two-lane parkway and light rail crossing the open space, linking the Maroon Creek Road roundabout to the upper end of Main Street. The new alignment would bypass the S-curves.

Then, last year, voters rejected a proposal to allow dedicated bus lanes along with the two-lane parkway as an interim transit measure. They also nixed a proposal to retain the existing alignment through the S-curves, but with a roundabout at Cemetery Lane.

Polling voters on the bus lanes again in November is always an option, the memo notes.

Although the city could ask voters to rank their preferences, it’s unlikely that any option would receive the backing of a majority of electors – 50 percent plus one vote, staffers predict.

“Whatever decision is ultimately made, a majority of the city residents will not be happy with that decision,” the memo warns.

It goes on to note: “Unless a decision is made, or at least a procedure identified to arrive at a decision regarding the Entrance to Aspen, our community will continue to debate, litigate, vote and get frustrated with city government until the end of time.”

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