S-curves experiment worked best in a.m. | AspenTimes.com

S-curves experiment worked best in a.m.

Janet Urquhart

Aspen’s recent S-curves experiment improved the morning commute into town, but did little to improve afternoon travel times, according to traffic engineers who kept tabs on the two-week trial.

Among the undesired consequences, traffic on Power Plant Road more than doubled during the experiment. Cemetery Lane area residents used the alternate route in and out of town while they were restricted from turning left onto Highway 82.

The City Council is scheduled to review the experiment Tuesday and decide whether to repeat it for two weeks this summer, when traffic flows are at their maximum. The first trial, from May 23 to June 3, caught the Aspen school traffic, but overall volume was hardly at its worst.

Nonetheless, commuters generally lauded the experiment as a resounding success, while residents of the Cemetery Lane neighborhood blasted the city for the undertaking. The city received nearly 80 citizen comments on the trial, many via an e-mail link established specifically to collect the public’s feedback.

“Have you lost your minds?” wrote an Old Snowmass resident. “This is about the most ignorant change that you have come up with so far.”

“What a great idea ” not!” offered someone else.

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Praising the experiment, however, were West End residents who saw a reduction in the number of commuters cutting past their homes ” a usual practice among some motorists skirting afternoon backups on Main Street. Several side-street and alley intersections with Highway 82 in the S-curves, including Hallam and Bleeker streets, were barricaded as part of the experiment.

“Bravo for your closures. It worked brilliantly,” wrote a Bleeker Street resident.

Smuggler Road residents, on the other hand, panned the experiment for its impact on their street, part of the Power Plant Road shortcut for Cemetery Lane residents who refused to participate in the right-turn-only experiment at Highway 82.

“I live on Smuggler Street and wanted you to be aware that the traffic on our street was bumper to bumper yesterday afternoon,” someone wrote.

During the peak hours of the morning and afternoon, Cemetery Lane traffic could only turn right onto the highway; those headed for Aspen had to loop around the roundabout and double back. Inbound Highway 82 traffic had a continuous green light; outbound traffic was only stopped to accommodate left turns off the highway onto Cemetery Lane.

“I think the experiment is working wonderfully and something had to be done,” wrote one commuter. “Kudos to you for trying it. Hopefully, it will become permanent.”

“As someone who has been involved in the traffic during the commute for 30 years, I can say that the S-curve experiment was a total success,” wrote another.

A Cemetery Lane resident also praised the experiment and urged its permanent implementation despite the inconvenience to that neighborhood.

But others were less than pleased.

“Yes it is a cute idea for the people from downvalley who do not pay your salary,” wrote one citizen. “Why am I, the taxpayer and voter who lives in this town, the one to be inconvenienced?”

“Let’s think, should the people commuting to work in Aspen from Rifle be able to keep driving without having to wait at a light so that those of us paying to live in Aspen can’t reasonably get to Main Street? I think not,” wrote another.

Cemetery Lane residents also complained that exiting onto Highway 82 in the afternoon was difficult, since they had to merge into the steady stream of vehicles headed downvalley.

Pedestrians reported difficulty crossing the highway at Eighth Street because traffic flowed more steadily. And the City Council removed the barricade at Eighth Street a day early after a complaint that the blockage was hurting business at the adjacent Poppies Bistro.

Other citizens clamored for the realignment of Highway 82 ” the so-called “straight shot” into town, or urged the city to build a roundabout at Cemetery Lane. One sketched a plan for a highway overpass at the Cemetery Lane intersection.

The experiment cost the city $41,670, including a traffic engineer’s assessment of the impacts, traffic control costs and public outreach, which included postcards mailed to Aspenites to explain the experiment.

The total budget for the demonstration project, if the council agrees to two more weeks of experimentation this summer, would be $82,609.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has insisted the city conduct the experiment during a peak season before proposing any permanent changes. The council has the option of dropping the whole idea now and foregoing the summertime trial.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com