This discussion is obsolete, but has been left up for historical context.
Why Now? (March, 2008, revision)
In 1998, the state issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), and Record of Decision (ROD), for the Entrance to Aspen which identified a "preferred alternative" of two general (anyone can use them) highway lanes, and two lanes reserved for light rail; or, as an interim measure, two lanes reserved exclusively for buses. In subsequent elections between 1999, and 2002, Aspen voters declined to support this alternative.
If no progress is made on a preferred alternative for at least three years, a "written reevaluation" must be performed to insure that there have been no significant changes in the project. This process provides the ideal, and perhaps the only, opportunity to designate a different preferred alternative, one which will attract voter approval.
In February of 2006, the Elected Officials Transportation Committee (EOTC – made up of the elected officials of Aspen, Snowmass Village, and Pitkin County) voted to spend $200,000 to reevaluate the ROD for the Entrance to Aspen. The reevaluation is carried out under the regulations of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
This petition drive was begun in April of 2006 in order to obtain voter approval to use city property for a new preferred alternative, with the understanding that the written reevaluation process, already begun by our elected officials, could result in a decision to build an alternative other than the original "preferred" alternative. Instead, officials limited the scope of the written reevaluation to prevent the review of any alternative other than the bus lane/light rail option, and they excluded new information which cast doubt on the validity of the comparative process which led to the selection of that option.
In addition, the City of Aspen rejected our petitions on the grounds that they did not seek approval for a "legislative" matter, effectively blocking a binding vote on the approval of either of the options presented here.
While blocking the citizens' initiative, the City of Aspen pursued its own ballot question, asking voters for approval to use land between Buttermilk Ski Area and the Roundabout for exclusive bus lanes. Although it left out the section of new highway that would run across the Marolt property, there is no doubt that now that Aspen voters have approved this question, the state will accept it as support for the preferred alternative. More importantly, while the lanes themselves are under construction, that will qualify as progress to advance the preferred alternative -eliminating the need for any addtitional reviews. It will not be until late 2008, or early 2009, that we will begin marking time for another three year period of no progress, and the necessity for a new written reevaluation, so elected officials will need to work with CDOT and the FHWA to implement any voter approval - no matter if they are for the proposals offered here or not.
Aspen residents have not had an opportunity to vote for a realigned four-lane highway solution to the entrance congestion problem since February of 1990, at which time they approved the transfer of open space for that purpose by a 56% majority. The absence of a new highway is not the result of any inability by the people of Aspen to make a decision; it is entirely the fault of three Aspen city council members who refused to honor the will of the people.
When people today think of all of the controversy, petitions, rhetoric and seemingly endless votes, they are reacting to the subsequent seventeen years of futile efforts by the political establishment to convince us that voters made the wrong choice in 1990. It shouldn’t require a citizens’ initiative for elected officials to finally realize that they need to restore the only decision ever to receive the unqualified and unconditional approval of the electorate.
However, the need to use the initiative process also helps to avoid a repeat of that past failure of representative democracy. State law provides that a successful citizen initiated ballot question is adopted as new policy by majority vote, eliminating any need to go back through city council. In comparison, the council of the early 1990’s had no legal obligation to implement what was essentially an “advisory” vote, and they paid no political price - because so few people realized what they had done until years later.
The current petition drive was begun early last year, with the hope of qualifying for last November’s ballot. When the city blocked that effort, it was hoped that a court decision would come in time to include the questions during the May, 2007, election. The petitions were finally approved for circulation on May 4th, which placed the process at the start of an 18 month political dead zone in which no regularly scheduled elections occur.
See the "Where's the Petition?" page for the latest info on the progress of the petitions.
This is the first time in the nearly forty year history of the entrance controversy that a binding vote will occur on a four lane option for the entrance.
The problem of how to get back into the FHWA process now that the written reevaluation has ended will be dealt with after the ballot questions are passed.
Why just Aspen voters?
Aspen controls the Right-Of-Way easement which controls what can be built along the corridor from Buttermilk into town, and most particularly the Marolt property. This initiative process is for the purpose of approving a "change of use" on the properties to allow something other than a two lane parkway and light rail to be built.
Why two alternatives?
First and foremost, we don’t actually know which one people prefer. Second, the entrance question is complicated by many layers of regulatory requirements, so there is no way to predict whether one of these proposals contains some fatal technical flaw. For a complete discussion of why we think having two alternatives doubles our chances to actually get something built, use the “Why Two Petitions” link.
You can find answers to most questions relating to the ordinances on Page 2. There are links at the bottom of the page to comments on the ordinances, and the complete text of both. If you’re really into the details, print out the comments, and refer to them as you read one or the other of the ordinances (they’re nearly identical, except for the alternative named), and you’ll have a very complete picture.
How can I help?
The home page includes links to contribute time or money, either of which you can do no matter where you live.
There are no limits on how much you can contribute, and if you prefer to send a check made out to Entrance Solution, just mail it to:
Snowmass, CO 81654
If you’re a registered voter in Aspen, check the “Where’s the Petition?” link.
How do I contact petition organizers?
The “Contribute Time” link will provide you with an email form that you can use for whatever suits you. Make a comment, ask a question, or volunteer your time. If enough people use the form, we may set up a forum for people to discuss the issues online.