It’s official: Traffic in Aspen is up
Traffic in Aspen hasn’t just inched through the S-curves this year. It has inched past 1993 levels – the benchmark by which the town assesses, well, traffic.Through August, annual average daily traffic stood at 24,442 vehicles coming in and out of Aspen, up 0.58 percent from the first eight months of 1993.”That’s the first time that has happened,” said John Krueger, the city’s director of transportation.This year, average daily traffic exceeded 1993 levels in January, March, April and July. Counts in February, May, June and August were down from the target level. Though traffic drops after Labor Day, the resort could end the year with average daily traffic that exceeds 1993 levels for the first time since it established a goal of keeping traffic at or below what it experienced 12 years ago.”For 12 years – that’s pretty good,” Krueger said. “Consider all that has happened in Aspen.”The traffic ceiling was established in the Record of Decision, a weighty document from the Colorado Department of Transportation that outlines a plan for realignment of Highway 82 at the entrance to town to bypass the S-curves, where the highway narrows to one lane and winds through two 90-degree turns.The Record of Decision established a “preferred alternative” for the highway at the entrance – a two-lane, realigned highway and light rail. Dedicated bus lanes are identified as an interim mass-transit mode.Exceeding 1993 levels doesn’t mean CDOT will start building a new highway, though. Topping 1993 traffic counts by a certain percentage was to trigger such moves as increased bus service, higher parking fees and other measures to discourage auto use and encourage mass transit.”We’re already doing them all anyway,” Krueger said. Because of a malfunction in the traffic-counting equipment, counts were not taken during the last two weeks of July and the first week of August, but data was collected during the busy period surrounding the July 4 holiday weekend. During the eight-day period from June 29 to July 6, Aspen saw an average of 29,300 vehicles crossing the Castle Creek bridge. The highest count, on July 5, was 32,367 vehicles going in and out of town. This year’s July 5 peak was slightly lower than the 32,547 vehicles recorded on July 2, 2004. On July 3, 2003, the town recorded 33,600 vehicles going in and out of town.Traffic – or more specifically, how to move it along at the entrance to town – will be the focus of a City Council discussion at 5 p.m. today. Experiments the city conducted in the S-curves and at Cemetery Lane last summer to improve traffic flows will be discussed, as will a dedicated, outbound bus lane on Main Street for next summer.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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