So far, so good for S-curves experiment
Aspen’s S-curves experiment got under way Monday morning, but it wound up a day-long affair, thanks to a recalcitrant traffic signal.What was supposed to be a test during the morning and afternoon hours ran through midday while the Colorado Department of Transportation worked to get the Cemetery Lane signal back in normal operating mode. In the meantime, the no-left-turn restriction on Cemetery Lane was in effect pretty much all day.Aspen-bound traffic accessing Highway 82 from Cemetery Lane/McLain Flats was directed to make a right at the highway and forced to loop around the Maroon Creek roundabout before heading back to town. Traffic cones and a flagger enforced the right-turn-only restriction.In addition, motorists found access to the highway through the S-curves limited, with intersections at alleyways and several side streets, including Bleeker, Hallam and Eighth streets, blocked off with temporary barricades.The experiment will run Monday through Friday, from 7 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m., through June 3.At Cemetery Lane, traffic on the highway in both directions will see a continual green light during the experiment, unless upvalley traffic lines up to turn left onto Cemetery Lane. Motorists coming out of Cemetery Lane must merge into the flow, making a right turn when there’s a break in outbound traffic.
The city wants to know if the changes improve traffic flow on the highway at hours when it often bogs down.On Monday morning, the experiment appeared to work. Cemetery Lane traffic had little trouble turning onto the highway or getting into the roundabout to make the loop. Inbound vehicles proceeded slowly, but steadily through the Cemetery Lane intersection, with no red lights to impede flow.”It hasn’t hurt anything, and it’s helped a little,” said John Krueger, the city’s director of transportation.Afternoon traffic exiting Cemetery Lane continued its right-turn feed onto the highway without much trouble, according to Krueger, reporting from the scene at about 4:15 p.m. Fewer vehicles exited onto the highway from the side road in the afternoon, he noted.Passengers on the Cemetery Lane bus Monday morning were mostly supportive of the experiment, even though their bus is forced to loop around the roundabout along with the school bus and everyone else.”I think it’s worth exploring,” said one regular rider. “It might be stupid in the end. I don’t think there’s any mal intent.”To be honest, I’ve had bus drivers do this anyway,” the passenger added. When a bus misses the green light to turn left into town, drivers sometimes zip to the right instead and head for the roundabout, she said.
Bus driver Ricardo Ayala praised the experiment yesterday morning. His Cemetery Lane bus remained on schedule as he eased the bus into traffic and around the roundabout quickly, even as traffic backed up downvalley of the traffic circle at about 8 a.m.Sometimes, the bus gets stuck at a red light coming out of Cemetery Lane onto the highway for a considerable period, Ayala said. The traffic signal’s cycle gives Cemetery Lane motorists a brief green light but a long red one, so vehicles queue up waiting to turn left toward town.”To get into Aspen in the morning is really hard,” Ayala said.”I think to try to figure out a solution to the problem is the way to go. Maybe this will work,” said bus passenger Cheryl McCulloch. “We’ll see.””I don’t like it and I’m glad I’m moving away,” groused another passenger, voicing skepticism about the experiment and its goals.Alden Richards, who commutes upvalley from Holland Hills and typically bypasses upper Highway 82 by diverting onto McLain Flats Road and then Cemetery Lane, liked what he saw yesterday.”I thought it was great,” he said. “There’s always about 10 or 15 cars waiting to make a left-hand turn – it was constant flow today.”
A few motorists were confused about their inability to turn left toward town and asked the flagger for directions. At least one reportedly tried to make the left turn despite the cones blocking the way.But most Aspenites were aware the experiment was coming. The city transportation department mailed postcards to residents last week explaining the demonstration project. Large message signs on both ends of the S-curves were in place Sunday to notify motorists of the coming street/alley closures.Citizens can weigh in on the experiment at firstname.lastname@example.org, but only a handful of messages came in after yesterday morning’s initial run, said Lynn Rumbaugh, city transportation manager.The city received more than a dozen comments last week, in advance of the experiment. “They’re all over – some people think it’s a great idea, some people don’t like the Cemetery Lane piece or the closures,” Rumbaugh said. “I’m not getting the sense yet that there’s one opinion now.”Before the city can make any permanent changes, the Colorado Department of Transportation will require a repeat of the two-week experiment during a busy period this summer, Rumbaugh said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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After nine months of being shuttered due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Wheeler Opera House will reopen for local acts. A touchless reservation system will be open to 53 people for in-person at the venue. Online live streaming also will be available.