New plan to break Entrance stalemate
ASPEN Jeffrey Evans launched a new effort Thursday to try to get a definitive vote on the Entrance to Aspen and raise funds for a four-lane highway.Instead of waiting for the city of Aspen to break the entrance stalemate, Evans wants the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to hold an election. RFTA is actually a regional transportation authority that was established by the Colorado Legislature. The authority’s district stretches from Aspen to New Castle.In Evans’ eyes, that transportation district is the appropriate entity to hold a vote on a major transportation issue, such as the Entrance to Aspen. He wants RFTA to schedule an election in only the Pitkin County part of its district. The ballot question would seek approval for $30 million in bonds that would be repaid through a 0.3 percent sales tax levied in Pitkin County.The funds would be used to build a four-lane, straight-shot highway into Aspen that wouldn’t have any restrictions for buses.Although Evans’ vision for the entrance is different from the Colorado Department of Transportation’s “preferred alternative,” he claimed that state and federal highway authorities have assured him the plan can be altered – if funding for a new plan is secured.Wants to use citizen petitionEvans’ plan faces one immediate hurdle. He doesn’t believe the RFTA board of directors would place his question on the ballot. Instead, he wants the board to alter its rules so that citizens can use a petition to force a ballot question. The binding agreements between the governments that are members of RFTA doesn’t allow acceptance of citizen petitions.Evans vowed that he could get a petition seeking an election signed by 15 percent of registered voters in Pitkin County. The Entrance to Aspen battle has been waged in Aspen for nearly 30 years. It’s bogged down to a stalemate between sides that want to build a four-lane straight shot into town on a realigned highway, those who want to retain the S-curves and supporters of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s “preferred alternative” to mix new traffic lanes and mass transit in a straight shot.Evans said it would be appropriate for RFTA to try to break the stalemate since it is a transportation authority that can wade into highway issues. It has a broader responsibility than to the five to 10 percent of commuters who ride the buses, he said.Voice for commuters?The proposal might have the unintended effect of giving commuters who live outside of Pitkin County a voice in Aspen’s Entrance to Aspen debate. Evans wants the election limited to voters in Aspen and Pitkin County, since they would be the only ones taxed. However, RFTA attorney Renee Black said a RFTA election might be opened to all voters in its district.If that’s the case, commuters driving into Aspen from Snowmass Village, Basalt, the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and New Castle might have a voice in the entrance debate.That prospect spooked some members of RFTA’s board of directors.”I have a very serious concern about me having a vote on land use in Aspen and Pitkin County,” said Glenwood Springs Mayor Bruce Christensen. Likewise, he wouldn’t want Aspen voters casting ballots on a Glenwood issue.Evans said that isn’t his intent. He believes RFTA could organize an election for only its Pitkin County constituents.Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud said she wouldn’t be in favor of Evans’ proposal because it is “180 degrees” different than a ballot question RFTA plans on presenting to its voters for an expanded bus system. That question could be popped as soon as November 2007.Beyond that, the board didn’t engage Evans on the merits of his proposal. Instead, members directed their staff to look at the law establishing the regional transportation authority and determine if citizen petitions can even be used to force a ballot question, and report the findings at the May meeting.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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