Alternatives to roundabout studied for Snowmass intersection |

Alternatives to roundabout studied for Snowmass intersection

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times

A study commissioned by Related shows that a roundabout at the intersection of Brush Creek, Wood and Kearns roads in Snowmass Village would be the best alternative for improving traffic flow and safety, although a four-way and three-way stop also would be viable alternatives.

A roundabout for the intersection is included in the 2004 Base Village approvals, which hold the developer responsible for constructing it. However, since the town and Related began working on roundabout designs last year, many members of the community have questioned whether it’s necessary now, considering traffic counts are down since the early 2000s and because of the impact it could have to a longtime local business, the Snowmass Resort Conoco station.

Related was charged with analyzing alternatives for the site, where vehicle trips are expected to increase by 2 or 3 percent as Base Village is completed, according to consultants hired by the developer. Related presented its findings in a preliminary plan application submitted last month.

Felsburg, Holt & Ullevig, the consultant company hired by Related, ruled out certain alternatives that it said contained “a fatal flaw or several highly undesirable characteristics.”

Those included an oval roundabout, which would allow cars in certain directions to speed through faster than desired; a mini roundabout, which has potential for wrong-way movements because of its size and other problems; and a traffic signal, which has “historically not been acceptable” in Snowmass Village, although it would otherwise be an “excellent” solution.

In addition, the consultants considered shifting upper Kearns Road, creating two “T” intersections onto Brush Creek Road, but that would carve into town property planned for future use and would result in extremely steep grades. A roundabout downhill on Brush Creek Road also was dismissed for its impact to private property and the difficulty of constructing on that grade.

That leaves three viable alternatives to the consultants: the roundabout as currently planned, a three-way stop and a four-way stop. In a chart comparing those three options as well as taking no action, the consultants showed that the roundabout as planned would improve traffic flow the most, ensuring that the average delay would be 5 to 10 seconds per vehicle during morning peak hours and less than 5 seconds during afternoon peak hours.

A “properly designed and constructed roundabout could improve intersection’s safety,” the chart also states.

But it has greater impact to adjacent areas as it pushes traffic closer to Brush Creek and impacts access to the gas station, which the owners feel would be a severe detriment to their business. The other alternatives would have no physical impact to surrounding areas, the consultants say.

Taking no action means that vehicles would experience an average delay of more than 30 seconds in morning peak hours and 10 to 15 seconds in the afternoon peak — a level of service of “F,” according to the Transportation Research Board.

A three-way intersection that would not stop cars on the uphill approach of Brush Creek Road would operate with 5- to 10-second delays in both the morning and the afternoon. A four-way stop would operate with average delays of 5 to 10 seconds per vehicle during peak hours.

While Related was charged with conducting the analysis, engineers hired by the town will evaluate and confirm the consultants’ findings. The town employs engineers from SGM, who in March, still stood behind a roundabout as the best option.

The consultants also advised the town to consider sub-alternatives within the options proposed, including moving the gas station’s driveway to Kearns Road.

“This access driveway sits immediately upon the intersection and therefore compromises its safety and capacity,” the analysis states.

The town also could try implementing either of the stop-sign options, “(since the cost would be relatively low), gauge its operations and decide at a later date whether a roundabout should be constructed,” the consultants suggest.

Related also hired consultants to study ways in which the Carriage Way/Wood Road intersection, considered the worst traffic problem in the village and related to issues at the proposed roundabout site, could be improved. Alternatives proposed include traffic control officers, an option already employed during peak times, and adding a stop sign on Wood Road. The consultants also considered a roundabout but ultimately didn’t prefer it as an ideal alternative.

Ultimately, the decision on how to proceed will be up to the Town Council. The Town Council and Planning Commission are set to receive a presentation of Related’s preliminary-plan application June 24. The Planning Commission is expected to have its first public hearing on the application July 15.


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