After more than decade of debate, Aspen’s Park Avenue set for safety improvements

City’s busy east end neighborhood to get some attention

A biker crosses Park Avenue on Hopkins as cars pass by in Aspen on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

After more than a decade of consideration by Aspen city officials, an east end neighborhood known for its high traffic use by motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians is finally going to get some attention.

However, it will be two years before a portion of Park Avenue will get a sidewalk on the east side, along with a realignment of the road where it’s the narrowest.

Aspen City Council agreed earlier this week that once residents in the area were notified of the plan, the engineering department could move forward with final design and budget the $335,000 project for 2023.

City Councilwoman Rachel Richards said during Monday’s work session that she wanted the project to be moved into the 2022 budget, but city staff said the capital asset plan for next year is already set and the improvements will be more economical when stormwater work on the adjacent Midland Avenue is planned for 2023.

Previous councils have talked about making improvements to Park and Midland avenues since the mid-2000s, with the focus on making it a one-way loop.

Residents in the area have been split on what should occur in the neighborhood, which has been highlighted in the last year of outreach conducted by the city.

Putting a sidewalk on Park Avenue will affect several homeowners who are using the city’s right of way for landscaping as an extension of their properties.

“I think we’ve let it go far too long of people using the right of way as part of their property and designing homes,” she said. “We need to make sure that’s not happening anymore and get back what we can because pedestrian safety and the safety of the traveling public, the safety of buses is very, very important.”

With continued concerns from the neighborhood on pedestrian safety and vehicle interactions, council directed staff at the end of 2019 to revisit improvements to the area, according to Pete Rice, the city’s engineering division manager.

Earlier this year the engineering department received direction to proceed with a schematic of a two-way street on Park Avenue with an attached sidewalk along the east side, as well as intersection improvements at Park Avenue and East Hopkins Avenue, where a pedestrian and bike path ends.

Community outreach in 2020 showed that the intersection felt unsafe to pedestrians and bikers, according to Rice.

In response, the city hired a consultant to perform a traffic study in the neighborhood and found that stop signs were warranted at the intersection to better control interactions between people traveling in different directions and on various modes of transportation, Rice said.

Neighbors and users in the area have reported that the stop signs have improved the situation at Hopkins and Park.

At that intersection, staff plans to realign and regrade the trail terminus, raise the pedestrian crossing and make improvements to the bus stop.

The sidewalk on Park Avenue will reach that intersection and will be between 3 and 5 feet wide, depending on the width of the road and the city’s right of way.

The realignment of the road will shift no more than 5 feet to the west, according to Carly McGowan, the city’s project manager.

The road will narrow from 12-foot travel lanes to 10 feet wide.

At its narrowest, the right of way on Park Avenue is 26 feet wide where the two existing sidewalk segments end and pedestrians are forced to walk on the road, often crossing the street mid-block facing oncoming traffic with poor visibility because of curves, trees and houses close to the street, McGowan said.