Aspen airport pedestrian crossing: Over or under?
October 31, 2011
ASPEN – Over or under: Those are the contemplated options for a new Highway 82 pedestrian crossing at or near the busy airport intersection on the outskirts of Aspen.
Planners are studying the ramifications of installing an overpass versus an underpass there to get pedestrians safely back and forth between the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport and the Aspen Business Center, as well as the adjacent transit stops located on each side of the highway.
The public is welcome to weigh in during a charette from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Aspen campus of Colorado Mountain College (in the art gallery). Attendees can come and go – it’s not necessary to be there for three hours.
CMC is but one entity clustered on the ABC side of the highway, along with the North 40 subdivision and other residential and business concerns. Pedestrians looking to head into town need to cross Highway 82 to catch an Aspen-bound bus, while outbound travelers taking a bus to the airport must also walk across the highway. County commissioners last year agreed that the present arrangement is dangerous and initiated planning for a grade-separated crossing.
The charette will give the public a chance to consider the pros and cons of an underpass versus an overpass, according to planner Stan Clauson of Stan Clauson Associates. His firm and Parsons Transportation Group have been hired to do the preliminary work that leads to a recommended alternative early next year.
“The engineers tell us that both are feasible. You could do either,” Clauson said.
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There are pros and cons to both, he added.
Part of the planning involves deciding where to put the crossing. It’s likely to be upvalley of the airport-ABC intersection at Baltic Avenue, Clauson said, and could be in the same area where the bus stops on either side of the highway are currently located. But with multiple lanes of traffic, plus bus pullouts and a highway median to span, an overpass won’t be unobtrusive.
“It’s a big thing. It will be particularly noticeable if it’s an overpass,” Clauson said. “Obviously, if it’s an underpass, there is no visual intrusion.”
At an initial charette in early September, attendees were split in favoring an underpass versus an overpass, he said. Some feared the aesthetics of an overpass, while others suggested it could form an attractive entry point.
An overpass of the height necessary, however, would require lengthy approach ramps on either side, Clauson said.
“Probably, you’d want elevators to make that work. It would be a very expensive solution,” he said.
An underpass, on the other hand, means disruption to get a tunnel beneath the highway, the potential added cost of utility relocation and the specter of a long, dark crossing. Designers are brainstorming on creating a welcoming underpass – “not to have that feeling that you’re going into a dark, dangerous place,” Clauson said.
The planning work is also focusing on pedestrian movement within the ABC, where people have suggested an underpass beneath Baltic Avenue.
“We’re looking at that – what the cost implications would be of that, as well,” Clauson said.
Late last year, county commissioners agreed to spend $250,000 on the planning and design phase of the project, tapping sales tax revenues devoted to transportation purposes.
Construction costs have not yet been determined, but at present, the state has slated the project for funding in 2016 or 2017, according to G.R. Fielding, county engineer.