S-curves experiment not over yet | AspenTimes.com

S-curves experiment not over yet

Janet Urquhart

A high-season continuation of the S-curves experiment received the green light from the Aspen City Council on Tuesday.Mayor Helen Klanderud and Councilman Jack Johnson opposed reinstituting the left-turn restrictions on Cemetery Lane for at least two weeks in August, but the rest of the council wants to try it when Highway 82 is congested.All five council members voiced support for further experimentation with the street and alley closures in the S-curves; Johnson said he’s ready to make them permanent now. Various intersections in the S-curves – where the highway makes two 90-degree turns on the west end of town – were closed during the first trial run of the experiment, which ran from May 23 through June 3.During that period, upvalley traffic on the highway had a continuous green light at Cemetery Lane during the peak morning and afternoon hours; downvalley traffic saw a red light only if upvalley motorists were waiting to make a left onto Cemetery Lane.Traffic feeding onto the highway from Cemetery Lane was restricted to right turns only. Aspen-bound traffic off Cemetery Lane was forced to loop around the roundabout and double back into town, but many motorists chose to bypass the highway and take Power Plant Road in and out of Aspen.”I’m actually very disappointed in Cemetery Lane residents who do that,” Councilman Torre said. “They’re avoiding even trying this experiment.”For the August experiment, council members want city staffers to brainstorm on ways to prevent cutting in and out of town on Power Plant Road/Smuggler Road. And Torre requested more aesthetic barricades than the hodgepodge of “completely over-the-top ugly” ones used in the first go-round.Council members also expressed support for trying both the blocked streets and the Cemetery Lane restriction concurrently, and experimenting with the two pieces separately.Both representatives of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and the Colorado Department of Transportation voiced support for the peak-season experiment, when the average number of vehicles going in and out of town will be 28,000-plus instead of the 25,000 or so at the peak of the first experiment.The spring trial run worked best to improve highway flows in the morning, according to Lee Barger, a traffic engineer with DMJM Harris in Glenwood Springs. It had less impact in the afternoon, he said.The improvements were marginal, he noted, and will probably be less so in August, given the greater volume of traffic.”Whatever we do out there, it doesn’t eliminate the congestion, it just speeds it along a little quicker,” Klanderud said.The community needs to do the August experiment just to put the matter to rest, Councilwoman Rachel Richards said.CDOT won’t allow any of the measures to be implemented permanently without trying them during the peak season.”That’s the key question: How much of the improvement will be eroded away with the increased volume in traffic?” said Charles Meyer, CDOT traffic operations engineer. If there’s any improvement, it may be worth permanent changes, he said.The council also directed staffers to pursue a couple of measures that may not be ready to go by August – a longer merge lane for traffic turning right off Cemetery Lane and a dedicated bus lane along the north side of Main Street during the afternoon commute.The council initially passed on the bus lane idea, as it was expected to involve a costly restriping of the street, making the change somewhat permanent, along with the elimination of parking on both sides of the upper end of Main Street. Meyer, however, hinted CDOT might be willing to accommodate something temporary if the city wants to try it.The August phase of the experiment will cost about $40,000, following the $41,670 spent on the first trial run. Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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