Traffic signals get green light |

Traffic signals get green light

Janet Urquhart

Aspen is likely to get its fourth set of traffic signals on Main Street – this time at the Galena Street intersection – sometime this fall.

The Aspen City Council gave the signals an informal green light last night.

City engineer Nick Adeh showed the council a sketch of light fixtures that mirror the antique-style street lights used in town. They will presumably make the signals less offensive in contrast to nearby historic buildings.

The stoplights will cost roughly $225,000 to $250,000, and the Colorado Department of Transportation will pay about two-thirds of the expense, with the city picking up the rest, Adeh said.

The council initially pondered installation of a simple pedestrian-crossing signal of some sort at the intersection, but CDOT has said the intersection warrants a full-fledged traffic signal if anything is to be done.

The intersection meets several state standards for signalization, noted Adeh, including traffic counts and pedestrian crossings, which number some 270 during the peak hour. Currently, pedestrians are aided only by a highway construction barrel with a mounted sign directing motorists to yield to crossing pedestrians.

Only Councilman Terry Paulson spoke out against another set of traffic lights. Motorists typically stop for pedestrians there, and none of the 27 accidents reported at the intersection since 1997 have involved pedestrians, he noted.

“Pedestrians rule in this community. To me, a stoplight means the cars rule,” he said.

But other council members called the signal lights long overdue.

“I, like you, Terry, don’t want to see any more traffic lights in town, but I think this is a necessity,” said Councilman Jim Markalunas.

“I really want to move ahead with this as early as possible,” said Councilman Tony Hershey, noting the number of city and county employees that cross there repeatedly during the day.

“Our turnover rate is bad enough as it is,” quipped Councilman Tom McCabe. “We don’t want to have a couple of [employees] out there on the asphalt as decoration.”

Mayor Rachel Richards suggested the city take up a citizen’s suggestion and form a committee to study the intersection before moving ahead with signals – another move toward urbanization that makes locals cringe. The group would likely come to the conclusion that a traffic signal is the best option there, and the community would feel it had a say in the matter, she said.

Most of the council, though, was ready to endorse the project.

“Let’s move on with it, get it done,” McCabe said.

The signals will force pedestrians to cross the intersection in groups. Currently, people cross one at a time, forcing traffic to halt repeatedly, Adeh said. In addition, the lights will allow the Galena Street Shuttle to cross at the intersection safely and give fire trucks a better option to get onto Main Street than the Mill Street corner, he said.

Attorney Paul Taddune, representing the adjacent St. Mary Catholic Church, commended Adeh for the historic look of the proposed fixtures and suggested their use elsewhere on Main Street would be a vast improvement over the urban lights now in use.

“That struck us all immediately,” said Richards, though she voiced doubt CDOT would replace all the existing signals.

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