The candidates for mayor and City Council weigh in on Entrance to Aspen |

The candidates for mayor and City Council weigh in on Entrance to Aspen

Aspen Mayor Torre takes part in Squirm Night Feb. 8, at GrassRoots TV in Aspen. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The Entrance to Aspen and the Preferred Alternative, or straight shot, create a pandora’s box of opinion and proposals among the candidates in the upcoming elections for City Council and mayor.

Not a single candidate is a proponent of the Preferred Alternative as is. Here is a sampling of their thoughts at this time about the issue.

Overall opinion of the Preferred Alternative:

Tracy Sutton, for mayor: “As a citizen, I think it is impractical and costly. As a mayoral candidate, I have heard from other citizens that have the same opinion.”

Aspen mayoral challenger Tracy Sutton takes part in Squirm Night. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Mayor Torre: “My first priority is to run a process with the community to arrive at best solutions to our entrance challenges. Our first task is to get all of the correct information to all of the community and stakeholders. I do think the Preferred Alternative needs the current conversation and to be looked at with today’s perspective.”

Bill Guth, City Council candidate: “I believe the Preferred Alternative is fundamentally flawed, as it does not solve or meaningfully improve upon our primary issue, traffic. I do not understand how we could even contemplate a project of this cost ($250 million), scale, level of disruption, level of impact on our citizens and neighbors, etc. without a reasonable guarantee of helping with traffic.”

Aspen City Council hopeful Bill Guth takes part in Squirm Night. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Skippy Mesirow, City Council incumbent: “My view on the entrance is that we are asking the wrong question. We have a downtown core that no longer meets our community needs: affordability, accessibility, shared space to connect, room for children to run safely, and clean air for us to breathe.”

Incumbent City Councilman Skippy Mesirow talks to attendees after his Squirm Night appearance. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Sam Rose: City Council candidate: “The city has presented a solid Preferred Alternative, also known as the straight shot, for the Entrance to Aspen. However, deep flaws need to be addressed before it potentially comes to a vote. I want to fight to make sure the best solutions are presented to the people of Aspen.”

Aspen City Council hopeful Sam Rose takes part in Squirm Night. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

What are your main disagreements with the Preferred Alternative ?

Sutton: “Besides being impractical and costly, I think it important to consider the safety of Aspen, regarding traffic, wildfire evacuation and the loss of open space and existing homes.”

Torre: “I have outstanding questions to be answered about the opportunities with a new alignment. The main disagreements that I have heard from members of our community are open space disturbance, a possible traffic light at 7th and Main, residence impacts, efficiency and efficacy questions, and other concerns raised by residents and neighborhoods.”

Guth: “The plan does not improve traffic and it does not meaningfully address ‘exit to aspen’ evacuation improvements. It destroys open space, quality of life, private property and neighborhoods and continues to overly prioritize public transportation (especially in the form of light rail, which is an idea that has been continuously demonstrated to be impractical for Aspen). It just doesn’t work for the majority in this community and will likely concentrate traffic in worse places — i.e. ,the core.”

Guth said he does live in a neighborhood that would be heavily impacted by this proposal, but this is not the root of his opposition to this plan.

Mesirow: The ETA as proposed fundamentally changes the character of our town. It affects our relationship with nature, our neighbors, and our town, never mind the construction and cost impacts of any project. We have real challenges to solve, but is this the best answer? That is not clear to me and will not be until the community votes on who we want to be in our core. Do we want more cars and congestion, or do we want affordable business, a renewal of shared space and the commons, and community re-integration? I want the latter, and if the community does, as well, we will need decidedly different (and less) infrastructure to address that need.”

Rose: “The proposed design would not reduce traffic for passenger cars despite adding two bus lanes. Putting a highway through the beloved Marolt Open Space? Is that really what we want as a community? … A new stoplight on Seventh and Main would take the traffic that used to extend to the Cemetery Lane stoplight and push it back into town, which will negatively impact traffic out of Aspen each weekday afternoon and cause more idling cars in the core. And the new configuration disconnects Cemetery Lane from Highway 82, which will cause residents to go into town to get out of town. If the bridge is ever closed off, the only way from downtown to Aspen Valley Hospital would be McClain Flats to Smith Hill Way. … There is not a clear explanation of how the Eighth Street and Hallam Street bus stop, which is Aspen’s second busiest, fits into the new configuration.”

What would you propose as another solution to the Preferred Alternative?

Sutton: “Not being an expert on traffic or bridge building, I think it would be prudent to revisit the alternatives with the tools that we have now, such as technology and building materials, and act quickly on those alternatives.”

Torre: “There are still many choices that this community will have to make whether that is with a new alignment or not. We need to know our options, and understand the tradeoffs. There are near-term opportunities to address some of our challenges that we should also be investigating and implementing.”

Guth: “I would engage with national/international traffic flow expert engineers. I would also provide some of the following ideas for a 2020s-era analysis such as begin design on a new three-lane bridge in current bridge location — center lane alternates depending on morning/afternoon traffic flow; work on new bridge over power plant; improve Maroon Creek pedestrian bridge; explore vehicular underpass(es) at Cemetery Lane and Burlingame; explore downvalley roundabout bypass and utilizing RFTA pull-off for upvalley Maroon Creek Road roundabout bypass; optimize in town pedestrian crossings — timed vs. on demand; continue to implement ideas from Mobility Lab — not the Living Lab — the source of Downtowner and WeCycle; expand availability and service zone of Downtowner — specifically to serve residential areas (i.e., Hunter Creek, Centennial, Smuggler, Park Ave. etc.); free RFTA valleywide (i.e. all trips to and from Aspen).”

Mesirow: “My campaign has made a transition to a ‘people-first core,’ complete with a forever affordable-business district, parks and community space one of three bold, transformative, achievable policy goals for that reason. It represents a first-principal system-solution that will improve the core and all around it, including changing traffic and congestion dynamics.”

Rose: “I have spoken with constituents that believe adding a third lane (two lanes out of town most likely) to the current configuration is a possibility, and that the split shot is a possibility where it is a two-lane bridge coming into town one way and the old configuration is a two-lane bridge heading out of town one way.”