Voters speak on Aspen entrance
pitkin county correspondent
ASPEN ” The people have spoken, and they still can’t agree on a solution to the Entrance to Aspen.
After 26 votes over 37 years, nearly 200 in attendance at an informal push-button voting session Tuesday at the Wheeler Opera House had another chance to chime in on the entrance issue. The informal vote was the final step in a five-month process of open meetings and public information sessions on the issue.
Moderator Chris Gates, a teacher at Leadership Aspen who also facilitated push-button voting on Aspen growth management in 2006, walked the audience through the six alternatives that sprung from community meetings.
Voters used remote-control keypads to answer 62 questions about the controversial entrance issue. Results will go to the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, which funded the process.
The electronic survey asked the audience whether each of the six entrance options would decrease the number of vehicle trips to town, maintain Aspen’s small-town character, provide a way to get more people to Aspen with less cars and would minimize the effects on open space, recreation and historic preservation areas.
Implementing the current preferred alternative ” the top choice after the initial Environmental Impact Study ” would require a city vote approving buses crossing the Marolt Open Space (currently slated for light rail only), but otherwise has no further hurdles to cross. Any of the other options require the reopening of the Environmental Impact Study, which would take time and cost an estimated $2 million.
Residents will have a chance to vote for two lanes of general traffic and two exclusive bus lanes from Buttermilk to the roundabout on May 8.
Question 61 asked voters which of the six alternatives they liked best.
The noontime audience of 98 voters keyed-in 18 percent support for the existing S-curves with three lanes, and 17 percent support for both the preferred alternative and the split shot.
Just 3 percent supported four lanes with bus and HOV.
The 5:30 p.m. audience of more than 80 supported the split shot by 22 percent, and an additional 18 percent supported the split shot with exclusive bus lanes (a modification of the afternoon question). Some 17 percent voted for the light rail version of the preferred alternative. Just 3 percent supported four lanes with bus/HOV lanes and 3 percent supported the existing S-curves widened to four lanes.
Voting officials were able to break down the results into “innies,” “outies” and “far outies” for those who live between the roundabout and town, for those who live beyond the roundabout but near town and those who live far outside the city, respectively.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a consensus,” said Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud. “But I think this is a very effective process.”
After the vote, the Wheeler lobby was busy with citizens debating the entrance issue.
“It was definitely worthwhile,” said Aspen High School senior Andy MacCracken, who thought the voting was a good chance to hear about all the options and give feedback.
And while the preferred alternative was backed by the best graphics, including a computer-animated segment showing what it would look like, MacCracken said it was because it was the most closely studied and that all the options were treated fairly.
“Traffic lights stop traffic,” said longtime Aspenite Jim Ward, who believes in keeping traffic running through the S-curves but thinks a roundabouts at both Truscott and Cemetery Lane would solve the problem. Just like a fireman doesn’t shut off his hose every 30 seconds, the lights should be removed to allow for a flow, Ward said. “Roundabouts work.”
“I wish more people had come,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield. But he saw the process as an “evolution to a compromise” and was pleased that there was support for the “split shot” and opening of the environmental impact statement.
The city will post the questions in survey form at http://www.aspenpitkin.com so those who couldn’t attend Tuesday’s meetings can participate. The deadline to respond is April 20.
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