Get rid of the wormhole
The amount of gasoline burned and toxic pollutants emitted by a motorized vehicle is roughly proportional to the time the engine is running. For this reason, traffic jams are very bad for the environment. On a Sunday morning, one can drive from Basalt to downtown Aspen in about 25 minutes. On workday mornings the drive takes more like 45 minutes, primarily because of the “wormhole” at the entrance to Aspen. Getting rid of the traffic jam at the entrance to Aspen would benefit the environment almost as much as halving the number of cars traveling to Aspen.
With the goal of reducing the number of cars, many people have advocated building a train system. Professional consultants have estimated the cost of a train system at $400 million dollars. That’s $10,000 per person for the approximately 40,000 people who live in this valley. In addition, operating and maintaining a train system cannot be financed by passenger fares alone and would require a large annual subsidy. A train system is not financially practical.
Another suggestion has been a bus-only lane. This would be less costly. However, the bus lane would be empty 99.5 per cent of the time. This seems like a very inefficient use of expensive pavement. Many workers need tools and equipment on the job or need to visit multiple sites during the day and therefore cannot use the bus. For this reason, the traffic jam in the car-only lane would still remain.
In a recent letter to the editor (Friday, Sept. 30), Gary Goldstein proposed a commonsense solution to the problem. He suggested two outbound lanes using the existing S-curve, two inbound lanes across the Marolt open space, extension of the four-lane highway from Buttermilk to the roundabout, and a new parking garage on the west side of Aspen. This is probably the least expensive of the solutions that have been discussed. I believe it would be successful in greatly diminishing the rush-hour traffic jams.
The major objection to having four lanes all the way to Main Street has been the fear that more vehicles would enter Aspen each morning. This objection was voiced when a four lane from Basalt to Buttermilk was proposed. The expected increase never occurred. Why would completing the four lane all the way into Aspen be any different? Where would the extra vehicles come from? No reasonable person drives to Aspen during the rush hour unless it is a job requirement. Why would this change?
If the residents of Aspen desire a clean environment, Goldstein’s proposal would appear to be an effective and affordable solution. Every day that the entrance-to-Aspen debate continues more gasoline is wasted and unnecessary pollutants are added to the air. It is time to make a decision and put this problem behind us.
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The city of Aspen’s office building is exempt from paying encroachment fees, yet private developers have to now pay $9 a square foot, per month, starting in 2020.