Task force will study S-curves | AspenTimes.com

Task force will study S-curves

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The job description for a task force that will study the S-curves has been set despite Councilman Terry Paulson’s fears that straight shot advocates will sabotage the effort.

The council settled on parameters for the group’s deliberations Tuesday, but put off making appointments to the task force from among the 25 citizens who have applied to serve.

The list of applicants includes several citizens who have been active on one side or the other of the contentious Entrance to Aspen debate.

Paulson voiced reluctance to appoint straight shot supporters to a task force that will be assigned to study improvements to the S-curves, and he pondered just what the city means by “improvements.”

“Does that mean more asphalt? I don’t want four lanes through the S-curves coming out of the task force,” he said.

“Do you want to tell them the answers you want?” said Councilman Tim Semrau. “Are you afraid this will produce ideas you don’t want or something? I don’t get it.”

The rest of the council agreed a citizens’ group might come up with some fresh ideas to improve Highway 82 as it winds through the S-curves – two 90-degree turns at the western entrance to town where traffic gets congested.

“Let’s let ’em loose, let’s see what can happen,” said Councilwoman Rachel Richards.

“There’s nothing to lose,” Semrau agreed.

Once its members are appointed, the task force of 12 to 15 people is expected to meet twice a month in July and August and bring its recommendations to the council in September.

It will be charged with developing some feasible short- and midterm solutions to improve traffic flow for buses and other vehicles through the S-curves, between the Maroon Creek Road roundabout and the corner of Seventh and Main streets.

The council established some fairly tight parameters to prevent the deliberations from expanding into the broader battle over whether the highway should remain in its existing alignment or be rerouted across open space – the so-called straight shot alternative.

“In order to be effective, we’ve got to avoid an S-curves versus straight shot debate,” advised Randy Ready, assistant city manager.

Instead, the group will be asked to focus on pragmatic, feasible improvements that could be implemented quickly with local funds and that have a reasonable chance of winning approval from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The task force is to look only at the existing alignment and the existing rights of way, which would preclude a four-lane highway through the curves, according to Ready.

Any recommendations must take the Seventh Street access to the Aspen Meadows into account and should focus on buses as the mode of mass transit that will serve Aspen for the foreseeable future.

Council members suggested the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which operates the bus system, be represented on the task force, as should the Aspen Meadows and the fire department.

Among the applicants for the task force are former Councilman Tom McCabe, David Guthrie and Richie Cohen, all vocal straight shot supporters; and S-curve advocates Dennis Vaughn, Cliff Weiss and Bert Myrin.

The city’s directives to the task force will be circulated to prospective appointees to see who is still interested in serving.

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

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