Next for the entrance: another vote
ASPEN It appears Aspen voters will have their say on a four-lane highway at the entrance to town in November.That’s because four-lane proponent Jeffrey Evans got the go-ahead from the City Clerk’s office Friday to continue his efforts to put two initiative petitions on the November ballot.The new questions propose realigning Highway 82 over open space at the entrance to town, with a new bridge over Castle Creek to directly connect the highway from the Maroon Creek roundabout to the upper end of Main Street.Both questions also propose four lanes of traffic, with one lane in each direction designated as HOV/transit lanes that are “no more restrictive” than the HOV lanes currently in place between Basalt and Buttermilk. Those lanes function as HOV lanes at certain times of the day; the highway is open to four lanes of general traffic the rest of the time.The new initiative proposals also accommodate a future light-rail system.One petition proposes a curved alignment of the highway across the open space, avoiding encroachment on the community garden and paraglider landing zone. The portion of the existing highway between Cemetery Lane and the roundabout would be returned to open space.The other plan includes the “cut-and-cover” tunnel that was part of the so-called Preferred Alternative for the entrance – a 400-foot-plus tunnel across the open space, along with restoration of open space where the highway currently runs between the roundabout and Cemetery Lane.”The only question that is a deal breaker is whether [voters] want a cut-and-cover,” Evans said. “This I think is a first in politics, asking two questions.”Part of the strategy is to see which alternative garners the most votes. If the cut-and-cover wins out, Evans anticipates a lawsuit being filed by the Friends of Marolt, which objects to the use of the open space for transportation purposes. “If a federal judge shoots down the cut-and-cover, there will be a back-up approval [with the other alternative],” Evans said.This is the second attempt by Evans to put the thorny entrance issue before voters. The last such vote occurred in November 2002, when city voters endorsed the existing alignment of Highway 82 on the western edge of town.Evans plans to start collecting signatures by the end of the month. He said he needs between 700 and 800 signatures to qualify for the city ballot. Evans also plans to present a county ballot initiative that would fund the entrance options; either through a sales tax increase, a use tax or mil levy. Evans said he needs between 1,200 and 1,300 to qualify for the November ballot.Evans also is a spokesman for Entrance Solutions, a group that has been campaigning against a May 8 Aspen ballot measure that seeks voter approval of exclusive bus lanes between Buttermilk and the roundabout.The group argues approval of the bus lanes will be construed by the Colorado Department of Transportation as tacit approval for the rest of the entrance plan outlined in a 1998 Record of Decision issued by the state. That plan, the Preferred Alternative, calls for two highway lanes for general traffic plus a light-rail transit system, with two dedicated bus lanes as an interim transit solution.Entrance Solution objects to dedicated bus lanes, arguing they will do little to relieve congestion at the entrance, as most motorists will remain stuck in traffic if just one lane in each direction is open to general traffic.Carolyn Sackariason’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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