Pitco suggests extended HOV lanes on 82
Pitkin County officials have suggested that the high occupancyvehicle and bus lanes currently on Highway 82 from Basalt to theoutskirts of Aspen be extended farther downvalley, perhaps asfar as Glenwood Springs.The suggestion is one of several contained in a resolution passedlast week in support of the “transit alternatives to be includedwithin the Draft Environmental Impact Statement process for theRoaring Fork Valley Transportation Corridor Investment Study.”The county is also asking that use of the existing railroad bedfor transit all the way upvalley to Brush Creek, known as “AlignmentA,” be retained as an option, in case the money is not availableto take the more expensive “Alignment C” route.Alignment C, which was approved through series of task force meetingsup and down the valley, calls for the transit system to leavethe existing railroad corridor at Catherine Store near Carbondale,and run adjacent to Highway 82 to Wingo Junction before gettingback on the original rail line.A third suggestion in the Pitkin County resolution is to preserveany unused parts of the former Denver & Rio Grande Railroad rightof way, which is now publicly owned, for “future transportationuses” rather than abandon it.”I think that needs to be looked into as an option,” said CommissionerPatti Clapper, referring to the idea of extending the highwayHOV and bus lanes to Glenwood Springs.”If it makes sense for [the] Basalt-to-Buttermilk [section ofthe highway], why wouldn’t it make sense all the way to GlenwoodSprings?” she asked.Commissioner Leslie Lamont said she, too, feels that the extensionneeds to be preserved as an option, partly for environmental reasons.Noting that the HOV and bus lanes into Aspen are being built primarilyto boost mass transit use, as well as to cut down on air pollutioncaused by dirt kicked up by passing cars, she said downvalleytowns are experiencing increased air pollution too.”As Dorothea said, there never used to be a brown cloud over thevalley, and now there is,” Lamont remarked, referring to countyCommissioner Dorothea Farris.Colorado Department of Transportation project engineer Ralph Trapani,however, said he does not think the extension of the HOV lanesis legal under federal highway regulations.”This is not the first time this has come up,” he said. “Thereare people in Aspen who seem to think the more they can restricttraffic downvalley, the less problem Aspen is going to have withtraffic.”But, he said, judges have ruled in other states that “it’s illegalto take away a lane” once it has been opened to general, unrestrictedtraffic.”If we add two lanes between Basalt and Glenwood, God help us,we could probably put a restriction on it,” Trapani said.But he said traffic generally does not get heavy enough to warrantsuch restrictions until somewhere around Basalt.Local officials are stressing that the resolution will get fullstudy in the EIS process, and that there will be time for publiccomment on the draft EIS once it is produced later this year.
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Amid the pre-Thanksgiving gloom of grim pandemic news here in Aspen, across Colorado and the mountain west came a small but significant dose of hope in the unlikely form of an Aspen Music Festival and School announcement.