Times endorsements: We must plan for the future; vote for the ‘straight shot’ | AspenTimes.com

Times endorsements: We must plan for the future; vote for the ‘straight shot’

Several months ago, when the Aspen City Council was debating what sort of ballot question to ask regarding the Entrance to Aspen, The Aspen Times urged the members to keep it simple. Ask which alignment people prefer, accept the results and end this divisive debate, which has polarized our community for far too many years.

They did just that. However, the war of words that began immediately after approval of that ballot question has been anything but simple, and certainly divisive. The emotions at Tuesday evening’s forum on this issue were higher than we’ve seen in many years during a local debate.

On the one hand, it is good to see that passion is still alive and well in Aspen. On the other, the level of passion seems to have clouded the debate. Emotions and passion have taken precedence over facts and figures, and we wonder if anyone really knows the “facts” anymore.

So, we will attempt to keep this endorsement simple. We will avoid the hundreds of arguments we’ve heard ? some valid, some not ? during the past two months and focus on two simple aspects that we believe are critical to our endorsement.

First, this town has been working toward mass-transit solutions for at least 30 years. We’ve built park-and-ride lots and instituted paid parking as ways to make this philosophy a reality. The Marolt-Thomas open space was purchased in part with transportation money, and a right of way has long been envisioned there.

We can debate the significance of the votes regarding mass transit and the entrance taken over the past eight years until we are blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is that we will never see effective mass transit in Aspen if we kill the modified-direct alignment.

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We don’t need engineers to tell us that a train system or dedicated bus system won’t be built on the S-curves. It simply can’t work. But those systems can work along the proposed new alignment. A vote for the modified straight shot at this point moves the process forward, and would only allow for the building of two lanes of pavement.

This is only the first step in deciding what we eventually want our entrance to look like. Once approved, we as a community can address what type of mass transit we want to see along the route. And we can do it as soon as the alignment is chosen.

Second, this town has long prided itself on being environmentally sensitive, actively seeking creative ways to keep our mountain air clean. Our current alignment is so environmentally insensitive that it’s embarrassing.

Forget the backups caused during rush hour, which are pumping poison into our air. The effects of that are obvious. During times of light traffic, every car that drives into Aspen must slow down or stop at the Cemetery Lane light and then accelerate, slow down for the first curve and then accelerate, and then slow down for the second curve and accelerate ? pumping out pollutants the whole way. Is this really the most environmentally sound solution for our Rocky Mountain town?

With the modified-direct alignment, engineers tell us the stoplight at Seventh and Main will be a “smart light,” meaning the light will give priority to the lane carrying the heaviest traffic. Even if that doesn’t work, cars will be forced only once to slow down or stop, and then accelerate. Common sense tells us this arrangement will reduce pollution in Aspen.

These two aspects we believe take precedence over all the other arguments we’ve heard regarding the S-curves versus the straight shot.

This is a vote about our future, not about keeping things the way they are. Traffic levels may be lower now than they were a few years ago, but they will increase again. Our town’s most creative minds are actively working toward ideas that will bring more people to Aspen, to help restore our economy. We must plan for that, keep that our vision. And that plan must be the most effective for our residents and visitors, as well as the most environmentally sensitive.

Vote YES for the modified-direct alignment on Referendum 2E (Referendum 1C on the Pitkin County ballot).