Sifting through the garbage | AspenTimes.com

Sifting through the garbage

Does the right hand know what the left hand does?

The No-builds have been trying to convince us that there’s no point in building a new Entrance to Aspen because “it still only has two lanes (which we already have).”

If they were right about the entrance always remaining two lanes, they’d be right in predicting that traffic stopped at the new traffic signal at Seventh and Main would get backed up all the way across the new bridge and into the proposed cut-and-cover tunnel.

As everyone who has driven Highway 82 in the last decade knows, traffic jams are created by narrowing two lanes down into one. Simply eliminating the S-curves will not eliminate traffic backups during peak travel times.

On the other hand, in the Friday, Oct. 11, issue of the Aspen Daily News, Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud is quoted as saying: “If the straight shot passes, then I think the next election will have a four-lane highway issue on the ballot.”

In the same issue, Mark Harvey devotes an entire guest column to the proposition that adding additional lanes to the entrance won’t provide any congestion relief.

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So, since these two allies of the “Citizens for a Small Town Entrance” have totally undermined the “it’s only two lanes” portion of the campaign to defeat the straight shot, let’s acknowledge that this was just another false, dead-end argument, and move on.

The single greatest benefit of moving the highway alignment is that it provides the ability to increase capacity with additional lanes. Under the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), increased capacity must come in the form of transit priority lanes, and only rail, bus-only and HOV configurations survived a process called a “fatal flaw screening analysis.”

HOV lanes do not currently qualify for construction, but their elimination was based on traffic projections which are no longer valid. They are still an option within reach, given the right political steps.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those No-builds who have pointed out that projected traffic increases have not materialized, and are not likely to do so. Your assistance in obtaining environmental clearance for the HOV option is greatly appreciated.

Mark Harvey takes the opposite approach, claiming that something called “induced traffic” (which proposes that people are more likely to drive if the experience is made more pleasant), will wipe out the benefits of any increased capacity.

All the problems with the induced traffic argument cannot be touched upon here, but keep in mind that sometime in 2004, it will be possible to drive from Buttermilk Ski Area to every major population center in the United States without ever leaving a multi-lane highway.

Invoking the induced traffic scenario for a mile and a half of highway linked to a nationwide system is preposterous. Imagine the scene in Kansas City: “Sorry kids, we can’t drive to Aspen, they never four-laned the entrance to town!”

In the context of the Roaring Fork Valley, induced traffic is presumed to be a reality, at least for a segment long enough to link Aspen to Basalt. In the Basalt to Buttermilk EIS, CDOT estimated that simply expanding the highway from two to four lanes would increase traffic volumes by 16 percent over and above simple growth.

That’s a lot of pleasure trips, but in contrast, Mark Harvey tells us that, “… research planners discovered that 90 percent of the capacity created by new roads was consumed by induced traffic within four years.”

Expansion from two to four lanes provides a capacity increase of 100 percent, so Mr. Harvey would have us believe that for every 10 cars that were actually going somewhere, another nine would be driven around just because the road was wider.

Given a 100 percent increase in capacity, some might think that CDOT wouldn’t be too concerned with their own estimate of a 16 percent increase due to improved traffic flow. On the contrary, CDOT made plans intended to offset that increase, and approved the strategy they felt was necessary to accomplish that goal.

CDOT proposed park-and-ride lots up and down the valley (done), they proposed a doubling of valley bus service (it’s closer to having been quadrupled), and they designated two lanes as HOV lanes during peak periods.

Mark Harvey committed 23 column inches of newsprint to an argument which has already been dealt with in great detail and at great expense, and in the process contradicted some of the most basic arguments of the No-build contingent.

Sorry if this is a little long, but the avalanche of garbage contributed by the No-builds will continue to dwarf comment from those of us who are not part of a manufactured deluge of emotionally manipulative, and totally uninformed, opinions.

Jeffrey Evans

Up the Crystal

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