Voters express support for Entrance to Aspen changes
June 19, 2011
ASPEN – Sixty percent of Aspen and Pitkin County voters strongly support some type of change to the Entrance to Aspen while a mere 10 percent strongly oppose taking action on the matter, according to results of a new survey commissioned by the city.
In the same survey, conducted in March by Boulder-based National Research Council, 60 percent of respondents indicated support for the “four lane” option without dedicated bus lanes, which would eliminate the S-curve and tread across a portion of the Marolt-Thomas Open Space. Basically it would be a straight shot into and out of Aspen.
Respondents expressed less support for several alternatives that have been discussed in the past, including the “modified direct,” “split shot,” “existing alignment with three- or four-lane options” and “gondola.”
The Entrance to Aspen – defined as the two-lane, two-way stretch of Highway 82 from Buttermilk, through the roundabout, to the S-curves on the edge of the West End – has been a source of study and debate for decades. The increase in visitors and workers passing through the corridor since the late 1970s has led many to push for various options that would move traffic into and out of town more quickly, alleviating congestion during peak hours of the summer and winter tourism seasons.
The Aspen City Council last year opted to hire NRC to conduct a survey on voters’ preferences in lieu of posing a ballot question. Surveys were mailed to 2,000 randomly selected registered Aspen voters as well as 1,936 randomly selected Pitkin County voters. The response rate was 47 percent, which is considered high for an NRC topic-specific surveys, the company said.
A presentation and discussion of the results is scheduled for Monday’s council work session, 5 p.m. at City Hall, said Aspen Transportation Director John Krueger. He opted not to comment on the survey’s findings, saying there were many facets to the report and that Monday’s meeting would probably include some discussion on the issue.
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The “modified direct” alternative garnered 43 percent support and 35 percent opposition. It’s basically the same plan as the “four lane” option, but includes two lanes for cars and two lanes for buses, or two lanes for cars and space alongside the corridor for light rail.
The “split shot” option – one way into town, one way out – would involve treading on a portion of Marolt Open Space with a new road that would start at the southern end of Cemetery Lane to bring motorists into town. Forty-four percent of respondents supported the idea, while 36 percent opposed it.
The concept of staying within the existing alignment, while widening the road to three or four lanes, didn’t elicit much favor, respectively garnering 42 percent and 41 percent support.
The aerial connection, or “gondola” option, failed to win much support. Twenty-six percent liked it, while 55 percent didn’t.
Only 19 percent favored no changes to the current entrance, while 68 percent opposed inaction.
The report also includes verbatim responses to a question asking how respondents heard about the issue. The lion’s share of answers listed “word of mouth” and “newspapers,” but other responses were more creative, such as:
• “Thirty years in Aspen – heard a lot – [you] should let Disney plan it.”
• “But politicians have been (beating off) on this issue for decades.”
• “I get my news from Toni Kronberg and the Red Ant.”
• “I’m old and over the years of nothing happening I cannot remember.”
• “I’ve heard about this for 20 years ad nausea.”
• “Newspaper articles thru the last 20-plus years. Stop asking, act!”
• “The paper and people talking about it for years – give it up!”
• “Past rehashing of the same issue.”
• “Please! This has been an issue for years!”
• “This has been talked about forever!”
• “Tired of all the politics – BS – use some common sense!”
• “We have voted on this issue countless times – keep the J curve!”
• “Years of useless votes/newspapers.”
Krueger said the council could opt to put one of the alternatives on the ballot this fall, letting voters decide the next step in the process.