The entrance debate – it’s baaack!
Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN Aspen is looking to the community for direction on the ever-divisive Entrance to Aspen and what to do about the highway bottleneck on the edge of town.The debate spans decades – 26 votes in 37 years, according to the city – culminating in a voter-approved plan to reroute the highway over open space that the electorate abandoned a few years later in favor of keeping Highway 82 on its present route through the 90-degree turns dubbed the S-curves.With the lofty goal of gaining new consensus, the city will host a pair of sessions – Voices on the Entrance – from 5-9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3. Both meetings will take place in the Aspen High School cafeteria.The upcoming meetings are open not just to city residents but all interested individuals in the valley. The input will shape the dialogue that follows, as local government delves back into what to do about the entrance, according to the city. Mayor Helen Klanderud said she hopes to see solutions arise from the grassroots discussions.”There’s a lot to be said for owning or participating in a decision,” she said, hoping for community buy-in on whatever comes out of the sessions.Whether this latest approach can accomplish any measure of success remains to be seen.”One can only hope,” Klanderud said. “It would be very nice to have an agreement that something will work. All you can do is try.”The starting point for the discussion is the so-called “preferred alternative” for the entrance, which the Colorado Department of Transportation approved in 1998. The solution called for a two-lane parkway across the Marolt Open Space on the western edge of town, bypassing the S-curves, plus two dedicated bus lanes as an interim transit solution and light rail as the ultimate transit vision.Any other solution would require another environmental study, at a cost of about $2 million. Building the preferred alternative would cost many millions of dollars, but there is no state funding currently allocated to its construction. The community meetings will be structured to let the attendees choose the topics and drive the discussion, but citizens are asked to do their homework. Attendees should R.S.V.P. to http://www.aspenpitkin.com or call 920-5082; they will receive background reading materials in advance of the sessions.To bone up on the Entrance to Aspen, go to http://www.sh82.com.