Nix the streetscape plan
I suggest the city of Aspen discontinue any further consideration of the Main Street Streetscape for the following eight reasons:
Lack of justification: City surveys indicate 36 percent did not feel safe crossing Main Street? That means 64 percent, a huge majority, felt safe.
Safety: As a pedestrian, cyclist and driver, my most important safety tool is clear vision and being able to make eye contact with other pedestrians/cyclists/drivers. The streetscape trees will impair vision and therefore safety.
Snow removal: The 2008 city of Aspen survey indicates 25 to 30 percent of residents report residential snow removal was less than timely or thorough. This stands in sharp contrast to most other city service satisfaction reports. While residential snow removal has room for improvement, I give the city high marks for Main Street snow clearing ” this is made possible by the storage of hundreds of cubic yards of snow in the center of Main Street ” snow is quickly plowed aside to be picked up later with relatively little disruption of traffic. Elimination of this snow storage area will result in a deterioration of snow removal, an increase in personnel and resources that must be dedicated to the timely and effective removal of snow on our only major artery and greater disruption of traffic. Any budget for the proposed streetscape project should appropriately include the additional equipment/personnel necessary to maintain snow removal standards on Main Street.
Traffic: The mayor has recently likened our roadways to clogged arteries and I agree. Installation of the streetscape will further constrict our roadway arteries and further aggravate traffic. Construction, routine landscape maintenance, repair/replacement of curbs/landscaping and snow removal will disrupt traffic periodically in perpetuity.
Views: Aspenites and visitors value our views and vistas. Installation of a forest of trees in the center of Main Street will impede our views across and to our streetscapes and mountains for motorists and pedestrians.
Western heritage: When I travel outside the west, my heart soars when I return to western towns and enter onto wide Main Streets that are uniquely characteristic of the west. Aspen’s broad Main Street is a defining characteristic of Aspen and the west. Destroying this western heritage with a landscape median is out of character with our history.
Safety (again): The shading created by medians and trees will limit solar gain thereby creating icy conditions treacherous to pedestrians and motorists during winter months.
Cost: At $3 million or more, we have far better and more important items on which to spend limited resources. In addition to the first cost of this project, the proposed streetscape will add significant additional costs to our community in perpetuity in the form of landscape maintenance and inevitable repair, periodic repair of curbing, increased costs for snow removal and added costs for pavement repair/replacement.
I urge the city to discontinue further consideration of this project to protect our scenic vistas and heritage, facilitate snow removal, reduce long term costs, maintain acceptable safety and avoid further clogging of our traffic arteries.
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Mountain Rescue Aspen is expanding its education efforts to try to keep people safe in the backcountry during winters and summers. It will host a workshop on Dec. 8 titled, “How to Plan a Backcountry Tour.”