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Bruff: Need rational analysis rather than community frustration

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

Having owned property in Aspen since 1985, I have seen the many versions of a new entrance to Aspen come and go. The city’s current “Preferred Alternative” to address the problem stands out, however, as uniquely devastating to neighborhoods while only marginally improving traffic flow for buses.

Admitting my own self-interest, I write to point out some substantive and procedural flaws in the proposal that will very likely cause Colorado courts to enjoin the project as currently proposed. I am a retired, tenured law professor from CU and have taught administrative law, local government, and environmental courses for decades.

To meet substantive rationality standards for legality, a road construction project needs to reduce congestion, not merely move it around. But, the city admits that mass transit — and not vehicular traffic — will primarily benefit from bringing a new five-lane bridge across to 7th Street. Sacrificing much of the Marolt Open Space to the highway is not rational without considering alternatives that could minimize environmental concerns — and both reduce the size of the highway and speed of vehicular traffic, such as the reversible lanes used in many cities.



Two procedural flaws are even more glaring. The city expects to proceed under the environmental-impact statement (EIS) that it issued in 1997. But, after a quarter-century, the environmental-impact study is too stale to use, given the many changes in our community, our environment, and our traffic that have occurred in that time.

Any court applying federal environmental law will enjoin the project until an updated environmental-impact study is prepared. Second, the 1996 vote of authorization and the 1997 EIS both require a cut-and-cover tunnel of at least 400’. What is now projected does not meet those specific requirements. This major change also prevents reliance on the old EIS.




The essential purpose of these legal requirements is to ensure that rational analysis, not community frustration, drives a project. The best way forward is to do the analysis now rather than in the wake of an injunction that occurs after more time and money has been fruitlessly spent.

Hal Bruff

Aspen