Advisory group: Pitco should nix plan for ABC intersection
An advisory group recommended Thursday that Pitkin County scrap plans to relocate the Highway 82 intersection that provides access to the airport and Airport Business Center.The group, comprised of citizens, consultants and county staff members, instead advised making limited improvements to the existing intersection at Baltic Avenue.The recommendation, if accepted, will save the county an estimated $700,000, and motorists the headache of yet another construction project next to the highway. Consultants from PBS&J, a transportation consulting company, are expected to take their analysis and the group’s recommendation before the county commissioners next month.”I think things are going pretty good for us, so far,” said Jackie Francis, who has been leading the charge against a plan to relocate the light farther downvalley. She lives in the North 40 neighborhood.Brian Pettet, director of Pitkin County’s public works department, said yesterday that the public process that resulted in Thursday’s recommendation was “very successful.” But for the intervention of Francis and her neighbors in the North 40 neighborhood, Pettet believes the money would have been spent and the intersection moved sometime this year or early next year.Until recently, the signalized intersection at Highway 82 and Baltic was one of the principle sources of frustration for valley motorists. Backups were probably at their worst in 1998, sometimes extending more than a mile back from the intersection. At the time, the county commissioners were in the middle of approving both the subdivision plan for the North 40 neighborhood and relocation of Colorado Mountain College to a new building across from the airport.It looked like traffic was only going to get worse, so the commissioners directed North 40 developer John McBride to secure a right of way farther downvalley. A new intersection, they reckoned, would have alleviated the rush-hour backups in the business center and provided more direct access to the terminal at the Pitkin County Airport.But things have changed dramatically around the airport in the past two years or so, and the need for a new intersection became less urgent for a lot of the players in and around the airport.The PBS&J consultants, who have been meeting with residents and business owners from the North 40 and the Airport Business Center, looked closely at three scenarios for improving the existing intersection.One was to follow through with the original plan to relocate the light to the yet-to-be built intersection at Front Way for a cost of $730,000. Baltic Avenue would be closed to traffic traveling upvalley on Highway 82, allowing right-in, right-out access for cars and trucks coming from Aspen.Another was to create a right turn-only lane at the existing intersection, allowing downvalley traffic to get around cars waiting to turn upvalley. The second option would also allow two lanes to form for left turns going upvalley. The estimated cost of the second option is $51,000.A third option was to make the improvements in the second option plus create a right-in, right-out intersection at Front Way. The consultants said that would allow traffic heading downvalley from the North 40 and the college to avoid the light at Baltic Avenue.Option 3, at an estimated cost of $136,000, was the preliminary recommendation from the consultants, but they changed their tune after nearly everyone at Thursday’s meeting said they liked the second option better.The recommendation is likely to be well received next month by the cash-strapped county commissioners.”I’m not sure how it will come out,” County Commissioner Mick Ireland said. “But it doesn’t sound like we have the money to afford much more than that.”
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