Aspen Colorado's New 15 MPH Citywide Speed Limit: What You Need to Know

Stephanie Kroll

In a recent decision, the Aspen City Council has voted to lower the speed limit on all streets within city limits to 15 mph, starting in 30 days. This change marks a significant reduction from the existing limit of 20 mph. However, it's important to note that some streets, such as Main Street, Cemetery Lane, and others, will remain exempt from this new speed limit. This decision was made during a city council meeting, where the mayor and council members weighed the pros and cons of this move.

New Speed Limit Approved

Mayor Torre, who voted in favor of the new speed limit, emphasized the symbolic importance of encouraging safer driving in Aspen. He believes that asking for slower driving in the community is crucial in promoting safety.

Councilmen Bill Guth and John Doyle also supported the measure, with Guth hoping it would create a more balanced experience for both vehicles and pedestrians. Doyle, on the other hand, expressed concerns about the behavior of cyclists and scooter riders in downtown Aspen, and he hoped the new speed limit would address this issue.

Dissenting Voices

Councilmen Ward Hauenstein and Sam Rose, however, voted against the measure. They favored a more targeted approach, specifically imposing a new speed limit in the West End and other neighborhoods where it was deemed necessary. Both Hauenstein and Rose pointed out that the information presented by city staff did not support the measure. They argued that lowering the speed limit to 15 mph might not necessarily result in a safer community.

City Manager Sara Ott recommended against the new speed limit, citing difficulties in enforcement, incongruence with street designs, and potential negative impacts on public transit routes. City Engineer Trish Aragon also expressed concerns about lowering the speed limit on streets not designed for such low speeds.

Background and Traffic Study

The debate over lower speed limits in Aspen has been ongoing for years. It gained momentum after a traffic study commissioned by the city in August 2022. The study, conducted by traffic engineering consultant Fox Tuttle Transportation Group, revealed that the primary issue in the West End was traffic volume, not speed. It found that a significant percentage of daily traffic used the West End to avoid potential congestion on West Main Street.

The study recommended against physical traffic mitigation measures in the West End, fearing they would worsen congestion on West Main Street. Instead, it suggested implementing small improvements to enhance traffic mobility on West Main Street while developing a long-term solution to congestion issues.

Council members generally opposed pushing congestion onto Main Street and preferred exploring measures to enhance safety in the West End. However, many acknowledged that any solutions would only be temporary fixes for a more extensive problem.

Exemptions and Concerns

During a recent meeting, Aspen City Council confirmed exemptions for several streets from the new 15 mph citywide speed limit. The exempted streets include Castle Creek Road, Maroon Creek Road, Main Street, Highway 82, Park Avenue, Park Circle, Harmony Road, and Cemetery Lane. Cemetery Lane's existing speed limit was also reduced from 25 mph to the new 15 mph limit.

Despite concerns from city staff, including City Manager Sara Ott, City Engineer Trish Aragon, and Police Chief Kim Ferber, the majority of the council members responded to residents' complaints about fast-moving traffic and chose to proceed with the new speed limit.

Aspen's new 15 mph citywide speed limit will go into effect, with some exemptions for specific streets. While the decision has faced opposition and concerns, it represents the city's effort to prioritize safety and address longstanding traffic issues. The debate over lower speed limits in Aspen continues, with ongoing discussions on how to balance safety and convenience for residents and visitors alike.

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