ABC traffic study at odds with county’s plan for intersection
May 1, 2002
If there was ever a time and a place to apply the saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” it’s right now at the Airport Business Center.The latest in a long string of traffic studies, which will be officially released tomorrow, is calling for only minor changes to the intersection of Highway 82 and Baltic Avenue. Baltic is the primary road in and out of the business center and county airport. If the Pitkin County commissioners follow the study’s recommendation, they will turn back an earlier decision to move the access about 400 feet downvalley to the yet-to-be-developed intersection of Front Way and Highway 82.Residents of the row houses along Baltic may have to continue living with heavy rush-hour and midday traffic directly in front of their homes. They say it’s an ugly situation that they expect to only grow worse as the nearby North 40 neighborhood builds out. In 1998, the commissioners agreed to relieve the situation by redirecting traffic with the new intersection. But the commissioners will be under pressure to scrap the plan because the financial gain from doing so is estimated at more than half a million dollars.If there are winners in the soon-to-be released report by PBS&J, a Denver-based consulting firm, it is the residents of the North 40.The North 40 is a subdivision located across the highway from the airport, just downvalley from the Airport Business Center. It came into existence four years ago as a privately developed affordable housing project. Ownership is limited to working residents, with lots being sold at a relative discount and caps on price increases.Last year, residents of the new neighborhood showed up in force to protest an application by service station owner Chris Smith to relocate his Amoco gas station down to the corner of Highway 82 and Front Way.Front Way cuts from the Airport Business Center along the upvalley edge of the North 40 neighborhood and connects with Sage Way, the access road that runs parallel to the highway.Currently, Front Way does not reach the highway, although the right of way is in place for the final leg to be built. Smith’s application came in anticipation of the new intersection’s scheduled completion in spring 2003.North 40 residents are dead set against both the gas station’s and the intersection’s move on the basis that neither the business nor a major access road to the business park next door belongs in a residential neighborhood. Rather than approve Smith’s application, the county commissioners directed their public works department to re-examine the need for moving the intersection.”A lot of the previous studies were based on the old configuration, when 82 was a two-lane highway. Things have changed out there,” said Brian Pettet, director of the public works department.The PBS&J study will be presented to the public at 5 p.m. Thursday at the county Health and Human Services building next to the hospital.A draft version of the study notes that the four-lane highway allows for some improvements to the existing intersection at Baltic Avenue that can achieve nearly the same result as a new intersection, but for a lot less money. It recommends that a right-turn lane be built on Baltic Avenue, so traffic exiting the business center and traveling downvalley can turn without waiting at the light. It also recommends that Front Way be extended to the highway as a right-in, right-out only access to the North 40 and Colorado Mountain College.The cost of the recommendation is estimated at $136,000 versus $730,000 to move the primary access downvalley as originally planned.