EL JEBEL - Eagle County will launch a process in December to determine how to improve El Jebel Road on both the north and south sides of Highway 82 at the main El Jebel intersection, officials said Monday.
El Jebel Road is overwhelmed at times with traffic on both sides of the highway. Two separate planning efforts were under way to design improvements, but those have been consolidated, according to Eagle County Engineer Eva Wilson. Construction will likely be pursued independently, she said.
The county received a $560,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation in June to improve safety on the north side of the intersection. That area is notorious for having multiple ingresses and egresses to businesses just a few feet away from the highway. The state awarded funds for improvements through the federal Hazard Elimination Safety Program.
Eagle County has been studying independently how to improve traffic flow on the south side of the intersection. A new park-and-ride lot for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will be built next spring west of the Orchard Plaza commercial complex, adding to traffic in the area of El Jebel Road at its intersection with Valley Road and East Valley Road. The Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District intends to ask voters at some point to approve a property tax hike for an indoor recreation center. That would add substantial traffic to Valley Road.
An initial design process earlier this year produced a preferred alternative that would relocate the intersection of Valley Road and El Jebel and replace it with a roundabout east of the Eagle County office and community building. That alternative would relocate Valley Road south of the Eagle County building, cutting through the northern edge of Crown Mountain Park before hooking back into the current alignment of Valley Road, west of the county building.
Pulling the intersection away from Highway 82 would reduce the chance of traffic getting backed up into the highway. Building a roundabout would improve traffic flow.
However, the preferred alternative was controversial among some midvalley residents. The Sopris Village subdivision said the proposal would increase traffic in the quiet neighborhood. Other critics objected to the road slicing through Crown Mountain Park.
Eagle County responded with a pledge to start the design process from scratch. The engineering firm of Schmueser Gordon Meyer was hired to rethink all alternatives. The firm also is looking at alternatives for the north side of the intersection, according to Wilson.
The firm will make sure "all stakeholders" are at the table to talk about options, Wilson said. There also will be an extensive public outreach process, she said.
It will take at least six to eight months to come up with a recommendation, maybe longer depending on the outreach process and the feedback received, Wilson said.
Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney, who is seeking re-election in Tuesday's election, said the board is "dedicated" to collecting public input and melding opinions with the engineering recommendations.
"I heard loud and clear from the community about concerns," he said.
The improvements on the south side of Highway 82 will probably only be pursued if voters approve the indoor recreation center, Stavney said. Improvements will be sought to El Jebel Road on the north side of the highway without any additional trigger.