Gridlock debate moves forward
After nearly four decades of debate about what to do with the entrance to Aspen, finally some action. OK, it’s not quite that bad – there have been some improvements since local residents ran the state highway department’s top engineer out of town for proposing a four-lane highway from Glenwood to Aspen in the late 1960s. But good on the City Council for moving ahead with a resident-proposed plan that just might help alleviate the backups in and out of town during morning and afternoon rush hour.For two weeks beginning May 23, motorists coming off Cemetery Lane will be required during peak drive times to take a right turn onto Highway 82, no matter in which direction they want to travel. For those who want to go to town, that means driving a few hundred yards downvalley, doing a full trip around the roundabout at Maroon Creek Road, and driving back into town.The experiment, which will be carried out again this summer to see how it works when traffic counts are high, is designed to determine whether allowing cars to flow continuously past the Cemetery Lane light on Highway 82 will alleviate the maddening and decidedly unenvironmental gridlock that sometimes occurs.The sole vote against conducting the experiment came from Mayor Helen Klanderud, who rightly pointed out that one result will be to send additional traffic into the roundabout at the exact times when it’s most congested. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying.As with so many big-ticket issues, the Entrance-to-Aspen debate, which began in the mid-1990s and has been subject to three votes, has sharply divided the community. The experiment, which begins in a week and a half represents a good-faith effort to find a solution that would avoid paving over the Marolt Open Space for the so-called “straight shot.”And after all, the experiment will only last for six hours a day for just two weeks. During those hours, alternative routes into town from Cemetery Lane will be closed off. It’s not a lot of inconvenience for something that could actually improve a lot of people’s daily lives.And if it doesn’t work, we can always dust off those old solutions, including the straight shot and light-rail proposal approved by voters in the mid-1990s, and the classic four-lane highway with clover-leaf exits proposed by that unlucky highway department engineer in the 1960s.
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