Aspen airport intersection key in access plan
September 14, 2011
ASPEN – The main Highway 82 intersection at the Aspen Business Center and Aspen-Pitkin County Airport shouldn’t be downgraded in favor of beefed-up access points to both the north and south of the busy spot, Pitkin County commissioners narrowly agreed Tuesday.
Two commissioners favored a full-movement intersection – one that accommodates turning traffic and traffic heading straight ahead – at the Service Center Road intersection located north, or downvalley, from Baltic Avenue. In that scenario, Baltic would no longer be a full-movement intersection. Left turns out of the business center and the airport wouldn’t be permitted.
In addition, the BMC West intersection to the south, or upvalley from Baltic, would become a full-movement intersection.
Full movement could mean traffic signals, a roundabout or some other means of controlling traffic movements.
“At the end of the day, I think we’re choosing between imperfect alternatives,” said Commissioner Rachel Richards, who opted for keeping Baltic a full intersection after her colleagues split 2-2 on the matter.
Commissioners Michael Owsley and Jack Hatfield preferred the improved intersections at both ends of the business center, though Hatfield said he’d advocate keeping Baltic as it functions now if the signalized intersection was replaced with a roundabout.
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“It makes no sense to have access in and out of the ABC in one location with one exception – a roundabout,” he said.
Both Owsley and Richards pointed out that the Service Center Road intersection may eventually become impossible to use safely for left turns onto the highway as traffic increases. In that case, it makes sense to improve the Service Center intersection and limit left turns out of Baltic.
“I just see that as inevitable with highway growth,” Richards said.
“Baltic Avenue would actually be served by this when you have less congestion there,” Owsley said.
Neighbors and businesses in the area, however, have said they’d prefer that Baltic remain a full-movement intersection. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which uses the Service Center Road intersection to get its buses out of its bus barn and onto the highway, expressed concern that sending other traffic there would tie up buses.
The extension of frontage roads along the business center to both Service Center Road and the BMC West intersection is planned. And the BMC West intersection would be upgraded, even though Baltic remains a major intersection.
The planning is part of a Highway 82 Access Control Plan that must be OK’d by commissioners and Aspen City Council, and then forwarded to the Colorado Transportation Commission for approval.
The intent of the plan is to maintain traffic flows on Highway 82 to the extent possible while safely accommodating traffic in and out of both the airport and business center sides, explained G.R. Fielding, county engineer.
Even before any major changes are made, improvements to Baltic, where vehicles stack up, may be in order, he said. Two left-turn lanes coming out of the business center, for example, could be created.
“No matter what we decide, in the short term some changes to Baltic are probably in order,” Fielding said.