Video to expound on Entrance history
The Aspen City Council split this week over whether to spend nearly $28,000 to increase awareness about one of Aspen’s thorniest issues, the Entrance to Aspen.The council on Tuesday voted 3-2 to proceed with a half-hour videotape on the history of the issue, a newspaper insert, a brochure and a website explaining the issues underlying the Entrance to Aspen, at a projected total cost of $27,500. Council members Rachel Richards and Torre voted against the measure.The goal of the promotional package, which special projects planner Ben Gagnon presented at a work session Tuesday, is to create a body of information to give to focus groups, citizen roundtables and other discussions about the Entrance to Aspen.That question, which has bedeviled local officials for three decades, involves the route that Highway 82 takes into town from the west.The most notable section is the snaking turns of the so-called “S-Curves,” which connect to West Main Street. Aspen’s traffic snarls every morning and evening from the S-Curves to Buttermilk.In the 1990s the Colorado Department of Transportation studied the matter and produced a federally mandated environmental impact statement and a “record of decision” that mapped out a new entrance route. The DOT called for a new bridge leading directly from Main Street over Castle Creek and onto a new road over the Marolt Open Space to the roundabout.But in successive elections local voters rejected the “straight shot,” as CDOT’s plan is called, and in one election directed the city and state to build a four-lane roadway following the S-Curves.City Council hopes to clear up the murky situation this year, with public meetings and other methods, and re-evaluate CDOT’s decision and environmental impact statement to determine if they are still valid.If they are not, the city might order a whole new round of studies, leading to even more delays in determining what to do about the entrance. The re-evaluation is scheduled to be complete by November.Both Richards and Torre questioned the value of the videotape part of the plan, preferring to put the money into the print and Web-based efforts.Or, Richards said, some of the money could go toward promoting Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses, carpooling and other measures to reduce the number of cars traveling into Aspen every day.”You’ve got 30 years of history, modern-day problems and future issues” that are difficult to package into easily digested informational formats, she said.In addition to her doubts about the videotape, she said, “I’m skeptical about that budget.” She said $28,000 might be a very optimistic price tag for everything the staff hopes to accomplish in the coming months.Torre also said he doubted whether the public would accept the city’s information efforts as objective.”We’re going to try to make it unbiased, but it’s not gonna be,” he said.Others on the council, however, said they are looking forward to the results.”I personally am anxious to get some of this background and history,” Jack Johnson said.According to Gagnon, GrassRoots TV will help produce the videotape; city staff will produce the booklet; and the website will be a link from the Aspen/Pitkin County home page to a page attached to the CDOT website.The city’s public information officer, Mitzi Rapkin, who will be working on the project with Gagnon, said she was not sure when the different components of the project will be complete.Gagnon was not available for comment Wednesday.John Colson’s e-mail is email@example.com
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