New roundabout works!
Traffic flowed smoothly through the roundabout all day yesterday, the first business day since it replaced the traffic light at the intersection of Highway 82 and Maroon Creek Road.
Rush-hour traffic during both the morning and afternoon commutes was smoother than it has been in several months, if not several years.
Bus riders found their morning ride times cut by 15 to 20 minutes, and upvalley traffic never backed up seriously during the morning drive.
The 30- to 60-minute backup that has clogged Main Street in downtown Aspen every afternoon all summer never materialized either.
At 4:30 p.m. yesterday, it took just four minutes to drive from the corner of Mill and Main streets to the roundabout; at 5 p.m., it took only three.
“It’s been wonderful, I’ve never seen traffic do so well. We opened the roundabout on Saturday and it seems like people drive in it like they were born in it,” said Project Superintendent Richard Sorensen, who spent much of the day observing traffic at the roundabout. Though the roundabout is open, completion of construction is expected in November.
A spokeswoman for the Aspen Police Department said that as of 5:15 p.m. Monday, there had been no traffic accidents reported in the roundabout. And neither the city of Aspen’s transportation department nor the Colorado Department of Transportation have received any calls – good or bad – about the traffic circle.
But even with three days of unqualified success under its belt, the roundabout continues to be viewed with skepticism, garnering only reluctant praise from the drivers it is benefiting most.
“Traffic’s better, but it’s kind of confusing,” said Terra Vestrand of Woody Creek. “I feel sorry for the people who won’t use it every day – the tourists.”
Despite the possibility for confusion, however, Vestrand admitted that her trip to a day-care center on Castle Creek Road was a lot easier yesterday. “Traffic has been hell, but the last couple of days its been a lot easier.”
Richard Gordon, a resident of Castle Creek, said he was pleased to see the traffic jams disappear, even as he lamented the development that has caused all the problems. “I drove straight out of town. I didn’t have to go under the bridge [on Power Plant Road],” he said.
Aspen Transportation Planner Claude Morelli said that recently imposed restrictions on driving through the West End to circumvent the afternoon backup, including a prohibition on left turns from Power Plant Road to Cemetery Lane, will remain in place for the time being.
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