Friends continue fight over entrance | AspenTimes.com

Friends continue fight over entrance

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Friends of Marolt Park and Open Space intend to appeal a federal court decision rejecting the group’s challenge to the environmental review that led to the state’s plan for the Entrance to Aspen.

The Friends filed a Notice of Appeal in the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Friday, according to Dennis Vaughn, the group’s treasurer. The action notifies the court that the group intends to exercise its right to appeal; the formal appeal will come later, he explained.

Last August, U.S. District Court Chief Justice Lewis T. Babcock issued a decision rejecting a series of claims made by the Friends of Marolt in a lawsuit the group filed in May 1999.

The suit asked the court to set aside the 1998 Record of Decision issued by the Colorado Department of Transportation, which identifies two alternatives for the entrance project, both of which would realign Highway 82 across open space on the west side of town.

The Record of Decision permits a phased approach to the entrance, allowing construction of a two-lane parkway across the open space ? a route known as the modified direct alignment ? plus dedicated bus lanes as an interim transit component preceding light rail. The environmental impact statement that led to the ROD, however, does not envision the buses-first, rail-later phasing, Vaughn said.

The phased approach was at one time contemplated in the environmental analysis for the entrance, but it was rejected in the final EIS, which envisions only a two-lane parkway and light rail, Vaughn said. Voters approved use of the open space solely for the parkway and light rail in 1996, he noted.

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The Friends intend to appeal Babcock’s ruling on several grounds, but the main one will be what Vaughn calls CDOT’s “bait-and-switch” tactic.

With the release of the final EIS, the public process that would lead to the Record of Decision was completed, he said. The public had no further opportunity for input when the Record of Decision, containing bus lanes as a phased approach to light rail, was issued, Vaughn claims.

“What kind of a process is that, is our question,” he said.

“In our view, what they did was a bait and switch ? that’s the position we’re going to be taking to the Court of Appeals and which we think has merit.”

Aspen voters did make their thoughts on interim bus lanes as part of the Entrance to Aspen known in 2001, when they rejected use of the open space for that transit alternative.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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