Two flawed alternatives
October 17, 2002
Recently I wrote a letter advocating a “couplet” entrance/exit for Aspen, wherein I referenced the merits of light rail transit as the best solution for the valley’s transit woes. The passage of time will determine if I am right.
Aspen citizens do not wish to have four lanes disguised as “transit lanes” jammed into Aspen. This was strongly expressed at the last election.
The 1998 Record of Decision endorses a two-lane parkway with a transit platform for light rail, which the voters approved in 1996. There is no need to four-lane the modified direct alignment, also known as “the straight shot” to accommodate “dedicated bus lanes” that can easily be converted to HOV or all-purpose lanes, thereby creating a “de-facto” four-lane into Aspen.
The fatal flaw of the modified direct alignment is the tunnel. Let’s stay with a decision that approves only a two-lane parkway with rail, but without a tunnel.
The two-lane parkway should be “one-way” eastbound into Aspen, with one lane dedicated for buses only. The current S-curves (7th Street to Hallam Street) route, should be converted to “one way” westbound outbound. This is not a new idea!
Use the S-curves for outbound traffic in concert with a new two-lane inbound parkway. This “couplet” solution would provide for dedicated bus lanes in and out of Aspen and two lanes for conventional traffic, without the onerous effects of a four-lane straight shot in and out of Aspen.
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A direct benefit would be the elimination of traffic lights at Seventh and Main and a light at Cemetery Lane. Cemetery Lane traffic can flow west to the roundabout, then into Aspen or downvalley. A couplet solution is much better than the circuitous “go-east-to-go-west” via Hallam-Seventh as proposed by the current “straight shot” plan.
Well-designed pedestrian bridges can eliminate the need for a cut-and-cover tunnel. Pedestrian bridge structures can be designed wide and attractive. They can function as safe-haven crossings for game in a natural environment. Let’s preserve the view and eliminate the tunnel; I want to breathe clean air, not the fumes from diesel trucks inside a dark tunnel.
The practical benefit of a “directional couplet” will be the elimination of traffic lights at two major intersections. Under this scenario there would be no need for lights at the Seventh and Main or Cemetery Lane intersections.
All traffic from Cemetery Lane would be routed west to the roundabout, eliminating the need to stop traffic for non existent “eastbound” traffic. Outbound traffic would use the existing “S-curve” route, eliminating the need for traffic lights.
This will certainly decrease congestion on Main Street and reduce pollution. If we really want to do something about the traffic situation, we will adopt a “couplet” plan that eliminates traffic lights.
That said, I cannot and will not vote for the existing S-curve alignment, because it will preclude any possible light rail service into Aspen, it being nearly impossible to construct a practical light rail alternative along the existing S-curves.
The existing S-curves slows traffic, but they also cause serious congestion on Main Street, with “cut-through” traffic in the West End, excessive pollution, traffic noise and road rage. The Cemetery light needs to go! Once eliminated, outbound traffic will flow much better.
In summation: This election is about two flawed alternatives that do absolutely nothing to solve Aspen’s long-term transportation problems. There is really no choice at all for the Aspen voter.
Therefore my choice will be not to choose between these two poisons. I prefer not to cast my ballot for either poor alternative or to pick the lesser of the two evils.
Rather, I will refrain from casting my ballot as a “non-vote.” Perhaps a majority of “non-votes” will send a message that we deserve better.