Guest commentary: Entrance to Aspen solution suddenly discovered

Jeffrey Evans
Guest Commentary

Aspen is fortunate that its primary transportation problem is so simple. Congestion at the Entrance to Aspen is a straightforward mechanical problem with an obvious solution that has been known for decades. So, if you don’t like that solution and want to prevent it from being built, a natural strategy is to make the situation seem complicated.

Starting in August 2015, I began submitting a series of letters to the editor in support of fixing the highway by increasing lane capacity by at least 100 percent. That’s the magnitude of improvement provided by adding two additional lanes to an inadequate two-lane highway. However, the capacity at the Entrance to Aspen is further constrained by two 90-degree turns, so the improvement is even greater if the curves are eliminated.

Supporters of the status quo saw no need to respond until it was announced that area elected officials had agreed to spend about $500,000 to “study” light rail as an alternative to fixing the entrance. The first time an Aspen City Council requested that the state of Colorado delay the expansion of the highway while it studied mass-transit alternatives was in 1970. By 1998, Pitkin County voters told their commissioners to stop spending money on rail studies until “such time as the expansion of Highway 82 between Basalt and Aspen is completed.” Raise your hand if you think that stopping the highway at the roundabout is what the voters had in mind.

The juxtaposition of another rehash of a 46-year-old rail absurdity, in comparison with multiple recent descriptions of the obvious highway solution, apparently got a few people worried about public perception. I have no other explanation for why The Aspen Times, Mick Ireland, Maurice Emmer and, to a lesser extent, Glenn Beaton independently felt the need to re-establish the idea that improving a highway is just so goldarned hard to do. The Times made a double effort to obfuscate — with both an editorial and an opinion poll.

The most popular answer to the poll question regarding what it would take to ease congestion was: “Nothing, it can’t be fixed.” This is not an expression of preference, but it provides cover for those who want to keep the entrance as is without revealing that they don’t give a flip about the people stuck in that mess. This group combined forces with the tragically hip, who think it is the height of political sophistication to claim that the entrance can never be fixed. (Variation: “Those people will never fix the entrance.”)

The Times’ editorial was almost completely devoid of content. The whole point of it was to create a headline that read, “Still seeking an Entrance to Aspen solution.” How much seeking does it take to find something that’s been staring you in the face for over 40 years? Regardless, more people will read the headline than the editorial, and the intended impression will have been created — Propaganda 101.

The editorial also provided the Times with the opportunity to repeat the ridiculous myth that “dozens of votes” have been taken on the entrance question. This nonsense is derived from a so-called “documentary” film, which treated every vote on transit proposals over the period of 30-plus years as a vote on the entrance, whether it was mentioned in the ballot question or not. Fixing the highway has absolutely nothing to do with mass transit — they are two separate issues.

I previously commented on one of the points made by Ireland, but his guest commentary was so chock-full of silliness that there is more additional material than we can cover here.

Meanwhile, despite being the most studied section of “highway” since the first recorded use of the term, circa A.D. 1200, Emmer says we don’t have enough information to proceed. Maurice, we get it: Aspen was perfect the day after you arrived, and nothing should be built anywhere. Stop the pseudo-sophisticated manipulation, and say what you mean.

Take the example of Beaton, who plainly states that “Aspen has no traffic problem” and “Aspen is not a highway; it’s a home.” Glenn, if there were no highway, there would be no town. Does that highway need to be an ugly, polluting mess to be homey? Should we draw any conclusions regarding your housekeeping preferences?

This just in: The Entrance to Aspen needs a new mayor and two council members who will get it fixed. If anybody tells you it is more complicated than that, they are lying to you.

Jeffrey Evans has long advocated for a new Entrance to Aspen. He lives in Basalt.


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