What are we – chopped liver?
November 1, 2006
I was thinking about starting this column by talking about what happens when you try to cram 10 pounds of … um … “stuff” into a five-pound sack. (The sack fills up, the seams burst, and you get that “stuff” all over you.)But since this is Aspen, I decided it would be more appropriate to talk about pâté de foie gras instead. So much classier, you know.Actually, let’s talk about foie gras itself – forget the pâté. Foie gras is a gourmet’s delight. It’s delicious, and it sounds classy, but what it really is – hiding behind the fancy French – is a diseased goose liver (or a diseased duck liver, if you prefer).To produce foie gras, the goose or duck is force-fed vast quantities of grain by means of a tube that’s crammed down its throat. The over-feeding results in a liver that’s swollen 10 or 15 times its normal size.The over-feeding also results, according to a report from the EU Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare, in a death rate that’s 10 or 20 times higher than normal.In other words, the force-feeding tends to kill the critters.Which brings us to my real topic: the Entrance to Aspen.I just got an e-mail from Mr. Jeffrey Evans, urging me to send a letter to the Colorado Department of Transportation. The letter would demand – demand! – that the entire valley be allowed to vote on cramming a four-lane down Aspen’s throat.Mr. Evans is convinced that the only solution – the obvious solution – to Aspen’s traffic problem is a four-lane highway running right smack dab into town.He is certain that will clear up all the annoying traffic jams.I am certain that he is exactly as full of “stuff” as that five-pound sack I mentioned earlier.Here’s the fatal flaw in his approach (and since we’re having fun with metaphors today – duck, geese, five-pound sacks – let me offer another one: You can’t fill a Coke bottle with a fire hose).Sure, the traffic jams outside town, where four lanes funnel down to two, are hideous. But they do serve a useful function. They slow the traffic down to a rate that Main Street and the rest of town can absorb.With a four-lane highway running right into town, Main Street itself would bear the direct impact. The traffic jam would move from Buttermilk to the heart of Aspen. Is that an improvement?With Main Street clogged, people would start turning off onto the side streets, forcing more cars into residential neighborhoods.Soon there’d be more traffic jams, more air pollution and more road rage right in the middle of Aspen. And what would we do then?It’s worth noting that Mr. Evans wants the entire valley to vote on the Entrance to Aspen – on the assumption, I imagine, that most of the valley doesn’t care what happens to Aspen. They just want to get rid of the traffic jam.The problem is, it just won’t work.The simple fact is this: The only way to deal with Aspen’s traffic problem is to actually deal with Aspen’s car problem.Somehow we have to reduce the number of cars and trucks coming into this limited amount of space every single day.We may have lost forever (thanks in part to a less-than-honest political campaign led by Mr. Evans) the chance to have a train in this valley. That, I believe, is a shame.But that doesn’t mean we have to surrender to the force-feeding tube.One way or another, we may have to limit motor vehicle access to downtown Aspen. I know that’s something else we’ve rejected in the past, but it may be what we have to do.After all – and I can’t believe I’m using this as a basis for comparison – they did it in Vail. One way or another, we have to do something. And a four-lane into Aspen is not the answer.Remember, with foie gras the idea is to overstuff the critter, then kill it and eat it.That is not the result we’re trying for here.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is email@example.com.