It’s baaack… Entrance to Aspen EIS dusted off for reconsideration
Clogged streets and frayed tempers have driven the city to reopen the hotly debated Entrance to Aspen issue.The Aspen City Council will dust off the 1997 Entrance to Aspen Environmental Impact Study at its work session today and discuss whether to fund a re-evaluation and update.”Clearly we’ve seen congestion as we haven’t seen it before,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud. “The main concern is the length of time it’s taking RFTA buses to get out of town.”She said the Band-Aids applied to the problem so far have done little to alleviate the lengthy, increasingly regular delays for Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses. During afternoon rush hour, buses have fallen behind schedule by as much as an hour between downtown Aspen and the Pitkin County airport, just a few miles out of town.Residents have shown their frustration with bus and traffic delays through letters to the editor, phone calls and e-mails to the city, and by driving through the residential West End in an attempt to skirt the backup on Main Street. People have the impression the city isn’t doing anything about the problem, Klanderud said. The last time a vote came up to propose solutions to the congestion in 2002, the majority of residents chose to leave the Entrance to Aspen as it is. But it was a close vote, within a few percentage points, said Assistant City Manager Randy Ready.”Every time we have one of these, the community gets polarized, which is why we want to bring it to the community to get direction,” Klanderud said.Before the subject returns to the citizens for a vote, consultants would have to write a new Environmental Impact Study to determine what changes have occurred in the corridor. The Federal Highway Administration and the Colorado Department of Transportation have decided the most recent environmental impact study is outdated.A new report would cost up to $200,000. Since there is no federal or state money available for the re-evaluation, the City Council will have to decide if it supports a supplemental budget approval from the Elected Officials Transportation Committee.The committee oversees spending of transit-dedicated sales taxes collected in Aspen and Pitkin County; it consists of officials from Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County.”We need to find out what will create a better solution than we currently have,” Klanderud said.Aspenites began taking a serious look at traffic flow into town in 1994, which led to a draft of the Environmental Impact Statement in 1995. It proposed three alternatives between the Buttermilk Ski Area and Maroon Creek Road, and seven alternatives between Maroon Creek Road and the intersection of Seventh and Main streets. In 1996, the final Environmental Impact Statement came out for a period of public comment, which was extended twice. Citizens wrote more than 950 comment letters during that time.The final document suggested a combination of highway and intersection improvements, as well as light rail and a transportation management program to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. The project passed a public vote in 1996 but could not muster enough support when the community chose whether to fund it a few years later.After discussing the issue at today’s work session, the City Council will provide input at the Elected Officials Transportation Committee meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, in council chambers.”Everyone in Aspen and anyone in the valley is certainly welcome to attend when we start this whole effort to go forward,” Klanderud said. “In the end, however, the decision is the city of Aspen’s.”Kimberly Nicoletti’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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