October 31, 2002
Jon Busch’s perception that the S-curves are not the bottleneck that creates traffic jams is correct; Aspen itself is the bottleneck, because it can’t unload and park cars as fast as the 40 downvalley miles of Highway 82 can provide them.
The straight-shooters’ utopian vision of rolling right into downtown Aspen at freeway speeds would not be realized by removing the S-curves, or even, logical corollary, by removing the several traffic lights and the roundabout which precede them and do more to hinder traffic, because the Mill and Main intersection can’t handle the tens of cars per minute that the four-lane highway can deliver.
The only way a straight shot into Aspen will help that traffic situation is if it is accompanied by a straight shot out the other end, and the removal of all traffic constraints in between. To lose the S-curves would be to simply necessitate the implementation of other, more contrived, “traffic-calming” measures.
Other arguments in support of the straight shot are alarmist red herrings:
1. If we don’t do the straight shot, we can’t have light rail:
This is the pork-barrel rider fallacy. In fact, light rail is a technology best considered on its own merits, and best engineered without the stipulated encumbrance of four accompanying lanes of asphalt.
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To preserve the S-curves is not to lose the Marolt right-of-way; on the contrary, it is to open it to a plethora of much more exciting possibilities than a Chicago-style asphalt-and-rail sandwich straight through the Marolt green space and the Berger cabin’s living room.
2. If we don’t do the straight shot, we can’t fix our bridges:
Why not? Pork-barrel rider fallacy again.
3. If we don’t do the straight shot, we can’t have efficient bus service:
This argument fails on the “if a thing exists then it is possible” principle. Our transit system is already fantastic, serving millions of riders every year, and the envy of the state.
The S-curves are no more an impediment to the buses than any of the other intersections and obstacles that they constantly navigate, and dedicated “slip” lanes, which have worked well in the past, are simply a matter of assignment and enforcement, as million-mile driver Greg Paul pointed out in his letter of Oct. 28.
4. The S-curves impede emergency vehicles:
They’ve been there for many decades; can anybody provide even a single documented incident? The first S-curve out of town is easily avoidable if necessary by jogging over to Hallam or Hopkins; the second can be quickly circumnavigated by way of the lower Castle Creek bridge, and both are wide enough to easily accommodate overtaking vehicles.
5. Ten years of diligent work have gone into this thing; we can’t just throw that all away:
This is the fallacy of counting sunk costs: making yesterday’s bad investment the rationale for tomorrow’s.
6. The S-curves supporters are wealthy NIMBY elitists who live on the east side of Castle Creek, to whom every detail of historic Aspen is too precious to change, and who want to slam the door on the working class:
This is the politics of resentment, and it has been used to great effect to roll over the opposition to much of the development of the past decade. Hoity-toity Aspen, still the most special of special cases, makes an easy target for the proletarian rant, which somehow seems to always gather all virtue on the side of the bulldozer and government-subsidized development.
Can it really be true, though, that so many workers choose Aspen in spite of, rather than because of, the things that make it different from just about everywhere else?
No, most people, workers or otherwise, appreciate, rather than resent, Aspen’s differences, whatever the high-profile class-warriors dominating the political scene might say.
Well, vive la difference. Vote to keep the S-curves.