State says no to roundabout at Cemetery Lane
The chairman of the Colorado Transportation Commission said Tuesday that the state won’t fund a roundabout at Cemetery Lane and Highway 82.
The state likely won’t fund another analysis of a roundabout at that location, either, Chairman Doug Aden told the Pitkin County Commissioners. And funding for construction of the preferred Entrance to Aspen plan across the Marolt open space is probably a long way off, too, he said.
Aden and several Colorado Department of Transportation officials met with the commissioners yesterday to discuss the Entrance to Aspen and other Highway 82 issues. The transportation commission is the decision-making board that governs CDOT.
“I can’t envision reopening the Record of Decision,” Aden said, in response to a direct question from County Commission Chairman Mick Ireland. The Record of Decision is the final environmental document on the Entrance to Aspen. The decision was the end result of several years of analysis of the Entrance to Aspen under the National Environmental Protection Act, costing well over $3 million.
Ireland noted that a roundabout couldn’t be built at Cemetery Lane without additional study under NEPA, because significant land from Bugsy Barnard Park would be lost to the construction.
Ralph Trapani, Region 3 program director for CDOT, agreed. “The Entrance to Aspen EIS [environmental impact statement] was heavily driven by open space issues,” Trapani said. “The roundabout at Cemetery Lane takes a lot of open space.”
Asked whether his fellow transportation commissioners would be likely to approve funding to reanalyze the Cemetery Lane roundabout and use of the present Highway 82 alignment through the S-curves, Aden said, “I don’t think they’d support it at all.”
County Commissioner Patti Clapper questioned Aden as to whether the transportation commission would respond if Aspen voters support using the present Highway 82 alignment in the May 8 election.
“I don’t know why we’d reopen the Record of Decision for a nonbinding popularity vote,” Aden responded.
County Commissioner Dorothea Farris added that the election, open to city voters only, would exclude most of the frequent users of the entrance.
The idea of a roundabout at Cemetery Lane was analyzed and rejected in the Entrance to Aspen draft environmental impact statement, completed in 1995. That analysis found that traffic in a roundabout there would not flow properly.
Roundabouts operate more efficiently when traffic flows on all legs are balanced. Because much less traffic comes from the Cemetery Lane leg, insufficient gaps would form in Highway 82 traffic, causing Cemetery Lane to back up.
The issue was brought up later in the EIS process, in a letter by attorney Lori Potter, representing the Marolt Park Association and the Mount Sopris Group of the Sierra Club. Their suggestion was rejected in the Record of Decision, which refers to the following passage from the final EIS. “The existing alignment … is screened out on the basis of safety and community acceptability issues, as compared to the other alignment options.”
Construction of the preferred alternative, two lanes open to general traffic and two transit lanes on the Marolt open space, will apparently be delayed for some time. State highway money is not available for the project in the current funding cycle, Aden told the commissioners.
“I think all of you need to continue to talk to the governor and the Legislature,” he said.
The state has set aside far too little money for infrastructure, especially roads and bridges, in the light of the explosive growth the region is experiencing, he observed.
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