Basalt breaks impasse on entrance debate | AspenTimes.com

Basalt breaks impasse on entrance debate

Basalt leaders have resolved their impasse over a highway project at the entrance to town in time to compete for funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The Town Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to seek funds for an underpass that will send Midland Avenue beneath Highway 82. The council unanimously supported seeking funds for a separate project to build a pedestrian overpass or underpass across the highway.

Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt cast the lone vote against the underpass. The plan is touted as a way to connect downtown Basalt to the newer south side of town without creating another connection with the highway. Whitsitt supported realigning the main entrance of Basalt to the intersection of Highway 82 and Midland Avenue. She said that plan was better because it creates a new straight-shot entrance that’s less confusing and more beneficial to downtown.

The debate over which alternative is better split the council last week. Whitsitt and Councilwomen Tiffany Ernemann and Anne Freedman favored creating a new intersection at Highway 82 and Midland Avenue.

Mayor Rick Stevens and Councilmen Leroy Duroux and Jon Fox-Rubin favored the underpass. The underpass is also envisioned in a town master plan completed five years ago.

The issue stayed at an impasse Jan. 27 because Councilwoman Tracy Bennett wouldn’t vote and break the deadlock.

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CDOT officials and Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland met with the council Tuesday to explain that they needed to submit a specific project to receive consideration in a comprehensive plan that will determine which highway projects will be funded in the state over the next 25 years.

“If you are not in line you won’t get funding,” warned Ireland, who is chairman of CDOT’s Intermountain Transportation Planning Region.

CDOT will start assessing proposals from cities, towns and counties by the end of February, then arrange priorities. A mini-plan is already in place that determines which projects will be funded over the next six years, according to Ed Fink, CDOT regional director for a 14-county area which includes the Roaring Fork Valley. Basalt’s project won’t make that list.

There is no guarantee that it will receive funding even if it ranks highly among the state’s projects, Ireland said. The state’s wish list of projects is significantly greater than available funds.

Basalt officials agreed they needed to put aside differences and submit a plan. Freedman and Ernemann agreed to change their vote with the understanding that alternatives to an underpass will still be studied.

“We don’t have time to change it now,” said Freedman.

Bennett also joined the majority.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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