May ballot to offer entrance plan choice?
Aspenites may get to weigh in on their preference for the Highway 82 alignment into town in the May election.
Should it be roundabouts or the straight shot?
The Aspen City Council is considering a pair of ballot questions to poll residents on whether they’d prefer the straight shot across Marolt or the roundabout plan. In a surprise move, Mayor Rachel Richards suggested Tuesday the city pose both options to voters. Most of the council is, at least, interested in having ballot language on the roundabout option drafted for their consideration.
“Why not let the voters have their choice between the two?” Richards said.
“Whatever the people of this community want, that’s what we should do,” agreed Councilman Tony Hershey. “Let’s ask the questions.”
Councilman Terry Paulson, who opposes putting any question to voters until a lawsuit over the entrance to Aspen is resolved, found himself backpedaling after he challenged Richards to put the roundabout option on the ballot two weeks ago.
“This is very clever, Rachel,” said Paulson, who supports the roundabout alternative.
The roundabout plan is the entrance plan floated by the Friends of Marolt, which has filed a lawsuit over use of the Marolt open space to realign Highway 82 from the Maroon Creek Road roundabout into town. Part of that suit is still pending in federal court.
Instead of routing the highway across Marolt, creating a straight shot into town that eliminates the Cemetery Lane intersection and the so-called “S-curves,” the Friends are backing construction of a small roundabout at Cemetery Lane to eliminate the traffic signal there. If that doesn’t ease the bottleneck into town, the Friends endorse roundabouts at Seventh and Hallam streets and Seventh and Main streets, as well.
Light rail alone, if it is ever constructed, could cross Marolt, according to the Friends.
In a Feb. 27 letter to the City Council, the Friends oppose asking voters about use of the Marolt space until the lawsuit is resolved.
But, the group added, if the city proceeds with a ballot question on Marolt, it should offer the roundabout plan as an alternative.
“We think the voters really ought to have a choice, and the construction of a roundabout is vastly less expensive than a $62 million entrance that no one has the money to pay for anyway,” said Dennis Vaughn, secretary/treasurer of the Friends.
The council, which must approve ballot measures by March 12, has already had City Attorney John Worcester prepare a question on use of the Marolt open space. Voters in 1996 approved use of the land for two highway lanes, plus light rail. The Colorado Department of Transportation’s plan for the entrance to Aspen includes two highway lanes and light rail or an interim busway. Voters have not authorized use of the open space for the busway option.
Council members are looking to secure that last OK from voters so they can pursue funding for the project from the state.
Mayoral candidate Helen Klanderud voiced support for the Cemetery Lane roundabout. “It’s doable now,” she told the council. “It may ease that problem instead of waiting for a solution that we may not see for 20 years.”
What happens if the city pursues the roundabout solution and it does not ease congestion is the big question, noted Richards.
“That’s the fatal flaw in what they’re proposing,” she said yesterday.
Nonetheless, Richards said she sees the wisdom in putting the roundabout plan before voters so Aspen can “speak with one voice to CDOT.”
Councilman Jim Markalunas, however, pointed out that giving voters a choice might produce anything but cohesion on the issue. Voters could endorse both options, or reject both of them, he noted.
Richards said she continues to support the entrance plan endorsed in CDOT’s Record of Decision – two lanes of highway plus a mass transit component (dedicated busways or rail line) from Buttermilk into town, using the Marolt alignment. That plan includes new bridges over Castle and Maroon creeks to provide dedicated lanes for mass transit.
The Friends’ plan does not address the highway segment between Buttermilk and the Maroon Creek roundabout.
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Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2001
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