Petitioners seek new entrance vote | AspenTimes.com
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Petitioners seek new entrance vote

ASPEN Two new initiative petitions that would put a pair of Entrance to Aspen questions before voters in November were submitted to the Aspen city clerk’s office Thursday.It is the second attempt by Jeffrey Evans of Basalt and Curtis Vagneur of Aspen to put the thorny entrance issue before voters anew. 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 and Vagneur were also behind a pair of similar petitions to the city last July, but those initiatives were rejected and the matter wound up in court after the pair filed a lawsuit; it remains pending in 9th Judicial District Court.Meanwhile, the latest petitions, according to Evans, have been reworked to remove the elements that led to City Clerk Kathryn Koch’s rejection of the petitions submitted last year.A decision by the clerk on the validity of the latest petitions is likely next week, City Attorney John Worcester said Friday.The newly proposed questions are similar to the prior pair of initiatives in that they both 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 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.Evans has long advocated a four-lane solution to Aspen’s entrance. He is the 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.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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