Is traffic necessary for preservation?
I admire Jeffrey Evans. For several decades, he has effectively beaten the drum for an improved Entrance to Aspen. Evans’ letters to the editor are always thoughtful and logical. His implication is that Aspen’s residents, along with the politicians who represent us, have a moral obligation to ease the commute of our friends and neighbors who drive up Highway 82 each day in rush-hour traffic. Evans cites standards of effectiveness, efficiency and cost benefit to support his requests to “improve” the road with a straight shot into Aspen. I understand his request and I appreciate the worthy debate that it sparks.
But I think there is a counterpoint here that we should all think about. I ask, rhetorically, should Aspen’s residents change the road if we believe it will also diminish the historic character of our town? Should we change the S-curves in the interest of efficiency if a straight shot encourages even more traffic and parking problems in Aspen?
Aspen is a special place. Should every decision we make be based on effectiveness and cost efficiency? Clearly, a Comfort Inn might be more efficient than the Hotel Jerome, and a multiplex could effectively replace the Wheeler Opera House, but a suggestion to make these changes would be laughed at. When I first arrived in Aspen more than 40 years ago, I remember the magical moment when I craned my neck to try to see the amazing town that unfolded past the S-curves. I have never been disappointed. With this in mind, my response to Evans is that our residents also have a moral responsibility to make decisions that keep Aspen a beautiful and charming place. It would benefit no one if Aspen became just another ski town bisected by another highway. Finally, our astute politicians and both of our newspapers, criticized by Evans as a “political establishment and a clique,” are actually perfectly in tune with the wishes of most of us here in Aspen. Change is not always for the better. If it were, none of us would ever talk about “the good old days.”