In its aim to become a gold-designated bike-friendly community, Aspen could see an overhaul and extension of the Castle Creek Bridge Trail corridor in the coming years.
The stretch along Highway 82 past Castle Creek Bridge and past the bus stop at Eight Street has been identified as a critical weakness and safety hazard in the city’s trail system. On Tuesday, Open Space and Trails officials informed the Aspen City Council that it will be requesting more than $30,000 in February for a feasibility study on the corridor.
“Castle Bridge is the Achilles heal of this whole network,” trails board member Charlie Eckart said during Tuesday’s work session. “I ride it everyday, and I have countless tales of fingers and swearings and encounters with people that are awkward on a bridge that’s too tight. Crossing Eighth Street is also a challenge.”
In addition to replacing a rusty cycling fence along the trail, officials are considering a pedestrian link across West Francis Street that would pull traffic away from Eight Street and into the West End. Parks manager Jeff Woods said that the estimated $30,000 appropriated for the study might be a little light and that a combination of funding sources might be needed between the general fund, Parks and Open Space and the Streets Department. Construction of the project would be done in phases over a number of years, requiring millions of dollars in funding.
In 2012, Aspen was designated as a silver bike-friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists. Aspen officials’ goal is to earn gold and later platinum. In its first meeting with the council in years, Trails officials regarded the reworking of the Castle Creek Bridge Trail corridor as its main priority in 2014.
“As far as future goals, I’d put all my marbles on the Castle Creek Bridge Trail improvement,” councilman Adam Frisch said. “Trying to get to gold and beyond those statuses is great, but on a day-to-day basis of affecting a lot of people, I think the Castle Creek Bridge needs focus.”
Councilwoman Ann Mullins said she agrees that crossing the bridge can be scary, with council member Dwayne Romero in firm agreement.
“The bridge connection seems to be so overdue,” Romero said. “I would insist we not only plan and organize funding sources but get at least the first phase in 2014.”
Eckhart said they also have considered creating a trail connection to the Aspen Music School, an idea Mayor Steve Skadron said he supported 100-percent.