Aspen officials sign off on four major traffic and pedestrian projects
Aspen City Council on Monday put its support behind several measures to improve vehicular and pedestrian traffic around town, from changes at the roundabout to a new Paepcke Park transit hub, as well as extending curbs at the intersection at City Market and making Midland and Park avenues one-way streets.
Council spent almost two hours discussing the challenges on Park and Midland avenues, which consist of unsafe conditions for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists, as well as drainage issues.
After listening to neighbors give public comment during Monday’s work session, council directed staff to implement this year a “living lab” experiment on the east side of Aspen. Traffic will go one way on Park Avenue toward Highway 82 and Midland Avenue one way away from 82, making a loop.
City officials also will look at sign options in an effort to alert motorists to slow down on the busy, narrow streets.
Council also agreed to move forward with final design and construction of the Paepcke transit hub.
The contract for phases three and four of the project with Otak, Inc. is estimated to cost $312,000.
The first two phases consisted of conceptual drawings and public outreach for a new transit hub at Garmisch and Main streets, which is the second most utilized bus stop in the city.
The conceptual cost estimate for construction is approximately $1.3 million, of which just over $650,000 will be covered by a grant and $100,000 by RFTA, local development and a small lodging program.
Construction is scheduled for spring 2021.
The Bus Rapid Transit stop on South Garmisch has limited bus infrastructure, and pedestrian safety is a concern when crossing Main Street.
Also, pedestrians are required to cross five lanes of traffic on Main Street and loading buses and vehicles can impair visibility.
“I think anyone who is a motorist has seen people almget creamed there,” Councilwoman Rachel Richards said.
Improvements are designed to create a safer inbound transit stop on Garmisch by providing a formal bus stop and creating a crosswalk on the street.
Also, a safer, more comfortable transit stop for outbound passengers on Main Street will be built that includes shelter, real-time transit signage and other amenities.
Currently that bus stop has just a three-person bench and a trash can.
Council also agreed that improvements to the roundabout must be made as a traffic study commissioned by the city points out numerous safety and congestion issues, and gives it an “F” level of service rating at certain points during the day.
The Kimley Horn report was based partially on field observations that were gathered this past fall and winter.
In anticipation of the Colorado Department of Transportation making improvements to the roundabout next year, including laying down concrete to reduce potholes, the city wanted to see how to make traffic flow better at the same time.
There have been 65 collisions in the past three years, with 41% being rear-end crashes and 31% are sideswipes.
Also, 61% of the crashes occurred on dry pavement, suggesting driver error, not environmental conditions, are a significant factor, according to the report.
The collision rate is 152% higher than the national average for roundabouts.
The Aspen roundabout has significant geometric flaws that are reducing its capacity and decreasing safety, according to the report.
Vehicles are staying in the inside lane as they go around the roundabout instead of going to the outside lane so that they can exit onto either Maroon or Castle Creek roads.
The western side of the roundabout will have the lane width decreased on the inside, which will force drivers to the outside lane.
Also, by modifying the curb and reducing the driving width of the lane, a sharper entry angle on the upvalley entrance will decrease vehicle speed entering the roundabout.
There are currently 75 signs on 44 signposts near the roundabout, which confuses motorists, according to the report and city officials.
Signs will be optimized and reduced, and roadway striping leading vehicle traffic through the roundabout will be implemented.
The project was originally budgeted at $97,000. The city has spent $41,166 and CDOT has paid $20,583. Approximately $20,000 has been used but not yet invoiced.
Council members all lent their support to the project and said it was a good start to several measures that can be implemented in future years.
“We need to keep making these small moves,” Councilwoman Ann Mullins said. “If you think this will raise the level of service from F to D or C that would be great. Having a service level like that is kind of embarrassing, so go for it.”
Across the Roaring Fork School District, three schools achieved higher ratings from 2019 to 2022, two schools had lower ratings during that time period and most remained the same.