Roundabout would dry up entrance funds
If Aspen voters approve a new entrance to Aspen plan that includes a roundabout at Cemetery Lane, state funding for the entire project could dry up indefinitely, warned a state transportation official.
Ralph Trapani, regional manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation, told elected officials from Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County that the state isn’t likely to build a roundabout at Cemetery Lane – no matter what the voters think.
“I don’t know why anyone would vote for that thing,” said Trapani, who is overseeing the work on Highway 82.
The Aspen City Council is crafting a ballot question for the May election that will ask voters if they are willing to surrender open space around the Cemetery Lane intersection so that a roundabout can be built in place of the existing traffic light.
“I don’t think CDOT is going to do anything at Cemetery Lane and Highway 82, not at an intersection that generates so little traffic,” Trapani said. According to state figures gathered in the mid-1990s, Cemetery Lane is the source of less than 1 percent of the traffic that enters Aspen on Highway 82.
Trapani noted that a winning vote for a roundabout at Cemetery Lane would derail current plans to straighten Highway 82 across the Marolt Open Space. That would force new environmental impact studies and a reopening of the so-called record of decision that is used to qualify for federal funding.
There are open space parcels around the intersection besides Marolt and Thomas – the municipal golf course, for one – that would impede construction of a roundabout, which requires much more space than an intersection with a traffic signal, he said.
Trapani also reminded the elected officials that there are other projects in the Roaring Fork Valley that are of much higher priority than a roundabout at Cemetery Lane.
“I’ve got a lot of other projects that would go ahead of that,” he said. “We need roundabouts in Glenwood at the I-70 off ramps, we need a new bridge across the Roaring Fork at the Highway 133 bridge, and we need to do a lot of work at the intersection of Highway 133 and Main Street in Carbondale.”
CDOT acquired the right of way necessary to straighten the highway by building it across the Marolt Open Space last year by swapping a larger parcel of undeveloped property near the confluence of Brush Creek and the Roaring Fork River.
Voters approved the use of the Marolt Open Space for a two-lane parkway and light rail in 1996.
Two years ago an organization called Friends of Marolt sued the city in an attempt to halt the project. The group has lost several rulings in federal court so far, but a key issue remains to be decided.
The Friends have vowed to appeal if the judge rules against them. Trapani said his department plans to continue pressing for the Entrance to Aspen project, as envisioned in the record of decision, even if the case remains undecided.
In addition to the question about Cemetery Lane, voters will be asked for permission to build dedicated bus lanes instead of light rail across the Marolt Open Space.
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