Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Anyone who says we need two traffic lanes into and out of Aspen isn’t paying attention. We already have them! There’s one lane each way on Main Street and two more through the West End. Add ’em up: two lanes in each direction, four lanes total, get out of town!

I know you want to argue about this, but I’ve done the research – many times. We really do have two lanes of road to get into and out of town, and they each take about the same amount of commuting time if you are heading to or coming from any point west of Buttermilk.

I can’t believe any self-respecting local commuter doesn’t already know it, but the West End route begins by taking a right turn anywhere along Main Street and then zigzagging as you please through the back streets through, arguably, Aspen’s most beautiful neighborhood. Just keep heading north and west at alternating right angles, and eventually you end up under the Castle Creek bridge. Then up onto Cemetery Lane, where you can either turn left and rejoin the chaos on Highway 82 or go right and all the way up over scenic McLain Flats and rejoin the chaos on Highway 82 just past Cozy Point.

Personally, I like the West End route. Although it isn’t any faster, I like to keep moving and coming to a complete rolling stop only at stop signs, not at the flash of somebody’s taillights in front of me. Also, it’s fun to watch other drivers maneuver through the back streets of Aspen. You get glimpses of them now and then a block or two away, crossing through intersections you never thought of using and make a mental note to try next time, and then you get to finally see them up close and exchange knowing grins of having beaten the system (even though you really haven’t) as you converge at the intersection before you head under the bridge.

Main Street is the right choice when you just want to relax and text or listen to music without having to concentrate on your next traffic move. It’s a thoughtless plod along the straight and narrow path, watching pedestrians walk along the nosiest street in town and wondering why, seeing who is waiting at the bus stops and feeling sorry for them until their bus passes you in the restricted lane, spotting joggers and bikers along the route who obviously want to be seen, or seeing who is going into the yoga studio to gauge whether it really works, which is perfect after being chained to the desk or working the dumb end of a tape measure at the construction site all day long.

Like I said, each route takes about the same amount of time, but if seconds count and you are feeling self-important, the science of the commute out of town begins with the community-announcement banners flying across Main Street. This is the decision point.

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If traffic on Main Street is backed up to the banners, you will for sure shave a few minutes off your commute if you head west through the back streets. If it’s not, stay on Main. Here’s another secret: Put your right turn signal on, and then jump into the “buses only” lane for an extra block – two if you feel lucky – after the traffic is already backed up and before you actually turn right. Technically this is an illegal driving maneuver, but it looks close enough to legal that, on the slim chance you get caught, you can probably talk yourself into a warning.

Choosing the absolute fastest way into town is a bit more problematic. If you are in a rush and choose the McLain Flats route into town, I can attest that there is nothing more irritating than looking down at Highway 82 past the airport and seeing traffic sailing along unimpeded. It’s just bad luck because some days the traffic is already crawling at the Aspen Business Center, and then you feel like a genius for taking the alternate route. It’s a pure gamble because, unlike the choice for getting out of town most quickly, there is no visible way to tell which route will be fastest into town at the decision point at the Woody Creek turnoff. My advice is to pick one route and be loyal to it. The routes, on average, are about equal.

So there is no use discussing whether we need two lanes of traffic moving into and out of Aspen since we already have them. The debate needs to be about whether we like the current configuration.