Manderson: What would Preferred Alternative cost?
The city of Aspen is engaged in a robust and expensive outreach program endorsing a 25-year-old concept (the “straight shot”) that it calls the Preferred Alternative as a new entrance into Aspen. “Preferred” is somewhat misleading. Since 2002 (the last public vote on the issue), voters in both the city of Aspen and Pitkin County preferred the S-curves over the straight shot.
Crucial questions that the city has not addressed is how much this enormous project will cost, how it will be financed, and who will pay the bill. The “Yes” vote (in the 1990s) for the straight shot was conditioned on the city having finances in place. No finances are in place for this project. Instead, the city refers to an outdated 2016 estimate of $106 million not even tailored to the present proposal, acknowledging that construction costs have increased significantly since 2016.
A 2016 estimate is useless in 2023. The real costs for a project that will not have broken ground 10 years after the estimate of $106 million will likely be two or three times as much.
Is it reasonable to expect support from the state or federal government at the level of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to build a grand entrance into a community of 7,000 people? Aspen may well be left with the bill. It is time for the city to abandon this extravagant plan, which it acknowledges does not cure the traffic problem. The mass transit-based approach does not fit Aspen.
Hundreds of millions of dollars may be spent to mitigate rear-enders at the S-curves and create an evacuation corridor, which may or may not be appropriate. Ironically, the city has acknowledged that the straight shot will not solve the traffic delays getting in and out of Aspen at rush hours. Traffic will only increase.