First assignment: Get on school bus |

First assignment: Get on school bus

Roundabout construction and traffic congestion that is only likely to worsen once school starts had local officials brainstorming Monday about how to encourage students and teachers to take the bus.

The roundabout project and its impacts on getting to and from the Aspen School District campus dominated discussion yesterday at a joint meeting of the City Council, county commissioners and the school board.

“What will we be facing when school opens?” asked Mayor Rachel Richards.

Construction, was Assistant City Manager Randy Ready’s simple response.

In early September, when Aspen public schools reopen, the roundabout will be in “Phase III” of construction. That means the traffic signal will be gone and traffic will be circulating in a roundabout fashion, but in just one lane. Phase III is expected to be implemented Aug. 23, Ready said.

“How’s it going to be, crossing-wise, for kids, pedestrians, bikers,” asked school board member Alice Davis.

“The crossing there is unpleasant,” Ready replied.

Pedestrians and school children should be aware that the only safe crossing of Highway 82 in the vicinity of the roundabout at Maroon Creek Road is via the Cemetery Lane underpass, Ready said. An underpass under construction beneath the roundabout is not expected to be completed until later in the fall, hopefully in October, he added.

Historically, the start of the school year coincides with increased traffic at the intersection of Highway 82 and Maroon Creek Road, most in attendance agreed, so several incentive programs aimed at boosting use of public transportation to and from the school campus were discussed.

Ready passed out a memo detailing several ideas about how to entice pupils and faculty alike to take advantage of mass-transit options.

School District Superintendent Tom Farrell said the biggest incentive to use mass transit may be the bus stop’s close proximity to the campus. The new, lower middle school parking lot and drop-off areas accessible to parents who drive their kids are substantially farther away, he said.

“The only way your child can get out of a vehicle and go right into the school is if they’re on the bus,” he said. “Once all the facilities are completed, I’d like to believe that parents won’t feel the need to drive their kids, because the bus system will work great.”

Farrell also noted several construction projects under way on campus, including the new parking areas that will accommodate the schools’ new pedestrian focus.

“We expect to have a pedestrian campus when we open later this month. It’s a work in progress,” Farrell admitted, “because we never had a pedestrian campus before.”

Student parking will change as well, as seniors this year must pay for a permit to park in one of the campus lots. Farrell said a price has not yet been set, and that the student senate will be involved in the decision. Depending on how many seniors purchase parking permits, Farrell added, permits may be available for juniors on a limited basis. Sophomores will not be permitted to park on campus, he said.

“The biggest fear we have is that kids, they’ll find parking spaces,” Farrell said, after admitting that students would likely be “up in arms” over the new parking situation.

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