Entrance to Aspen Home

Right-Of-Way Easement Agreement
allowed use to change

Memorandum of Understanding
to become obsolete

Why Two Petitions? General Questions  Original
Direct Connection


Modified Direct




There are three primary elements necessary to build a new Entrance to Aspen.

Money - Obtaining federal and state money to pay for new construction requires an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process to evaluate the merits of particular designs - and that has already been completed.

Voter Approval - There must be City of Aspen voter approval for a change in use of open space land which allows construction of one of the solutions studied in the EIS - and that has already been provided.

Elected Officials - An Aspen city council must initiate construction of a new entrance, one with the capacity to alleviate congestion and satisfy the requirements of the two elements above. This is the missing piece.

The Direct Connection illustration above (left) was provided by the State of Colorado to the voters of Aspen just prior to an election mandated by the Aspen City Charter. The charter requires voter approval of any change in use of land acquired for open space - such as the Marolt property at the center of both illustrations. Aspen voters approved a change to their open space to allow construction of this new entrance to town by a margin of 1475 to 1042, subject to certain conditions.

NOTE: This voter approval covers the entire section of Highway 82 between Buttermilk Ski Area and the intersection of Seventh and Main Streets in Aspen. The Marolt property is featured because it is considered the most controversial portion of the Entrance to Aspen, and is the only area where the highway would make a significant deviation from the current alignment.

In order to satisfy the conditions of the Direct Connection voter approval:

(1) The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) must compensate the City of Aspen for the open space used for highway construction. This has already been accomplished.

(2) The state must vacate the land between the existing Cemetery Lane intersection and the point where the new alignment leaves the existing highway, and convert the land to open space. There is no controversy on this requirement, and it is easily satisfied.

(3) The Cemetery Lane traffic light will be removed, and a new traffic light will be installed at the corner of 7th & Main Streets. Again, no controversy.

(4) There must be four lanes of highway.

In order to satisfy the separate and independent requirements of the Environmental Impact Statement for the entrance:

(1) The alignment must follow a route which substantially matches this illustration by crossing the Marolt property.

(2) The alignment may either be "at grade" or include a "cut and cover" tunnel. It is unlikely that the tunnel would be built unless, as determined by CDOT, it is required by federal law in order to mitigate the taking of open space.

(3) Two of the lanes must be transit priority lanes, i.e. rail, bus lane, or HOV. The current highway between Basalt and Buttermilk is an example of a HOV configuration which satisfies this requirement.

The points of agreement between the Direct Connection voter approval and the EIS form the basis for the solution which is already in hand. However, substitution of light rail tracks in place of two highway lanes violates the four lane highway requirement in the Direct Connection. Neither rail nor bus lanes provide the additional general traffic capacity needed fix the problem. So, the HOV option is the only solution which is compatible with both the EIS and voter approval - and which provides the additional lane capacity needed to relieve congestion.






Former and current elected officials do not want to honor the decision of the voters to build an entrance with four lanes of highway.

Though different in style, the illustration on the right was also prepared by CDOT, and shows the same area of the Marolt property. This was the preferred option of elected officials, and it was given a conditional approval by the electorate. Under this idea, the transit priority lanes are required to be light rail, thereby leaving the highway configuration as a two lane "parkway". The exact alignment of the tracks was never determined. The cut and cover tunnel is also a requirement, and additional stipulations were added beyond those noted for the Direct Connection.

The illustration serves to show the approximate location of the potential cut and cover tunnel - which could be built under the Direct Connection voter approval because it is not precluded.

NOTE: This voter approval also covered the entire section of Highway 82 between Buttermilk Ski Area and the intersection of Seventh and Main Streets in Aspen. It was later altered to allow exclusive bus lanes to be built, but only between Buttermilk and the Marolt property. The area within the illustration is the only section of the highway which has never received any capacity improvements.

The light rail plus two-lane parkway proposal can only be implemented subject to additional voter approvals of design and financing for the light rail portion of the plan. Despite several attempts, city officials have been unable to secure those approvals, and this particular scheme therefore has no force or effect. Regardless, the same officials tried to implement their proposal in advance of the additional voter approvals by creating a right-of-way agreement with CDOT as part of the transfer of authority over the land. The right-of-way agreement describes a design which is meant to accommodate the unobtainable light rail system, and it is now the controlling document for the project. This is why the state holds an easement for a transportation corridor on which it cannot build anything.

A majority vote by city council to amend the existing right-of-way agreement with CDOT, creating a new agreement which satisfies the Direct Connection voter approval, is all that is needed to get the project restarted - and fix the Entrance to Aspen.

Complete text of the proposed
 Direct Connection Ordinance

Complete text of the proposed
Modified Direct, Cut and Cover Tunnel Ordinance

Comments on the complete text of the proposed ordinances.

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