Aspen moving forward on final design for Castle Creek Bridge |

Aspen moving forward on final design for Castle Creek Bridge

The Aspen City Council continued discussions on the improvements proposed for the Castle Creek Bridge corridor Tuesday.
Karl Herchenroeder/The Aspen Times |

Aspen’s Engineering Department moved one step closer in developing a final design for the estimated $2.7 million Castle Creek Bridge corridor project Tuesday, and construction could begin as early as spring 2016.

Stretching between Cemetery Lane and Aspen’s West End, the corridor project would see traffic lanes along the bridge narrowed to make room for a 8-foot-wide, multi-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists. At the request of the Aspen City Council, the design team will hold at least one more public meeting to field input from residents before council makes a final decision on the project.

In order to make room for the multi-use path, which would replace the bridge’s north sidewalk, engineers would shrink the roadway’s shoulder from 3 feet to 2 feet. The lane widths also would shrink from 12 feet to 11 feet.

Councilwoman Ann Mullins asked if the shrunken roadway would impede traffic flow on an already congested roadway.

“The narrower the lanes are, the slower people will go,” she said. “It’s just going to create more of a bottleneck.”

According to the Engineering Department’s senior project manager Tyler Christoff, traffic experts expect a small reduction in speed, from 25 mph to 24 or 23 mph, when cars are flowing freely. When traffic is moving slowly, the experts expect little to no change with vehicle speed. He added that 11-foot lanes conform to Colorado Department of Transportation standards.

In May, Louisville, Colo.-based Loris and Associates, a consultant on the project, estimated that the bridge has 20 years left on its life cycle and suggested the city explore building a separate structure to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians. At the time, Parks Department Manager Jeff Woods estimated the cost of a new bridge at $4 million or $5 million, and the idea was quickly abandoned.

On Tuesday, Assistant City Manager Randy Ready said the state does not plan to replace the bridge within the next 20 years, given that it has a rating of 60 out of 100. Christoff explained that when Maroon Creek Bridge was replaced, it was rated at about 8.

Engineers have considered routing the pedestrian path as an underpass at Cemetery Lane, an idea that received a cool response from the council. Mayor Steve Skadron said he thinks underpasses are cold, dark and uninviting and said he values motorists ability to see cyclists and pedestrians.

When Skadron opened the conversation to public comment, former councilman Torre, who is running for mayor, argued that the $2.7 million project will constrict “the only artery in and out of Aspen.” He said the city should consider spending more money on a more comprehensive project, claiming another lane could be added for less than $10 million.

“No matter how you label this, this is an entrance to Aspen project,” he said.

Mullins made similar comments on cost.

“I just want to make sure we’re not shortsighted,” she said. “If we’re going to spend $3 million and come up with a compromised solution, should we be spending more on the bridge that’s going to be here another 25, 30 years?”

While Christoff said there’s no doubt the corridor is linked to the entrance to Aspen debate, a larger-scale project would involve retrofitting the entire bridge deck, which state officials did not support. Councilman Adam Frisch asked if there is room for another lane and a multi-use path.

Christoff said the city could potentially squeeze another lane using the existing right of way, but a multi-use path would not fit, as well. There also would be significant impact on nearby property lines, he said.

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