Aspen street crossings to become safer
July 29, 2009
ASPEN – Aspen City Council members agreed Tuesday to spend more than $600,000 this year to make it safer for pedestrians to cross high-traffic areas on Main Street and Durant Avenue near the gondola, as well as make Mill Street more bicycle friendly.
A laundry list totaling $6.4 million worth of improvements to be made around town was presented to the council by the pedestrian and traffic safety committee, comprised of six city staffers.
But because of a lack of funds, the council had to pick the highest priority projects, which boiled down to three.
The first is installing colored concrete or other material in pedestrian crossing zones on Main Street at Garmisch Street and working west, and at Hunter Street, working east. At those two crossings, the word “look” will be embedded in the crosswalk to encourage pedestrians to pay attention before they walk into the street. The cost for that project is estimated at $60,000.
On Durant Avenue, a colored or raised pedestrian crossing adjacent to the gondola plaza will be installed, serving as a traffic calming device to lower vehicle speeds and increase driver awareness. The cost of that project is estimated to be $315,000.
The most costly project is the improvements made heading north and south on North Mill Street, where bicyclists often are competing with speeding vehicles going down the steep hill. It will involve a dedicated bike lane and the narrowing of sidewalks along that stretch. The estimated cost is $340,000.
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Committee member Tyler Christoff said the costs are only estimates, and there could be savings realized that will allow the city to do all three projects and stay within the $624,824 budget.
If there is enough money left over, some council members said they would like to see a missing sidewalk link installed on the southern side of Neale Avenue to Maple Street off Gibson Avenue.
But it appeared that the highest priority for council members is to fix the pedestrian crossings near Paepcke Park and St. Mary’s Church, where people continuously try to battle traffic.
“I get complaints 10 to 1 on the safety of Main Street,” said City Councilman Dwayne Romero.
Councilman Torre said he would like to see signs posted at the S-curves that remind people that Aspen is a pedestrian-oriented town and to slow down.
“I don’t think drivers get that message,” he said.
Despite Mayor Mick Ireland’s desire to put a sidewalk on the western portion of Wagner Park so people aren’t forced to walk on Monarch Street, there was no consensus.
Torre said he is adamantly against it. He said that he had just played five innings of whiffle ball earlier in the day and there is not enough green space to begin with.
“We need all the park we can get,” he said.
The improvements presented were alternatives to what the council had considered in January – a $3.1 million overhaul of Main Street that included center medians, prominent crosswalks and the elimination of some left-turn lanes. The project would have been paid for out of a pedestrian amenity fund, which came from a payment by the Limelight Lodge in lieu of providing public amenities.
But after realizing there was no public support for it, the council bailed on the idea and had city staffers come up with lower-cost alternatives.