Aspen won’t be car-free Wednesday, but expect blocked streets
August 23, 2011
ASPEN – Aspen won’t be completely car-free during Wednesday’s second stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and related festivities, but parking and driving options for motorists will be extremely limited, event organizers say.
With the possibility of more than 20,000 visitors turning out for the big race, which will wind though the city’s commercial core before finishing at Main and Mill streets, several road closures begin early Wednesday morning and last through the day. Early in planning, organizers urged Aspen businesses to schedule deliveries Tuesday (or earlier) instead of Wednesday.
Most of the city’s commercial core will be closed to traffic between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. East-side residents who need to travel downvalley will have a tough time getting across town after 6 a.m., while those who live on the west side will be the least affected during the day if planning to head west on Highway 82.
At a recent City Council meeting, Mayor Mick Ireland recognized that many motorists – locals and visitors – will be confused on race day when they find blocked roads and traffic snarls. It will happen despite the city’s numerous efforts to get the word out about the race and related closures, he said. He urged bike and foot travel.
“We will tow cars that obstruct traffic, block driveways or park where we have no-parking signs posted, and we won’t have time to warn people about that,” Ireland said.
“My understanding is that the towing will begin at 6 a.m. Wednesday,” said Lynn Rumbaugh, the city’s transportation programs manager.
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“It’s a good day to walk or ride your bike,” Ireland added.
The east and west gates of Independence Pass (Highway 82 between Aspen and Twin Lakes) will be closed between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Rumbaugh said signs along Interstate 70 and Highway 82 on both sides of the pass will warn motorists of the road closures.
Ireland expressed concern for the Mountain Valley residents who live between the city and the west gate of the pass east of town. He said the city twice has posted signs on doors to warn them of their limited travel options on race day. Residents in that area will have no access onto Highway 82 between 2 and 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The city has released a list of changes to RFTA schedules and relevant street closures for race day:
• Main Street (Highway 82) will be closed from South Aspen Street through the Original Curve and to East Cooper Avenue, along with:
• Rio Grande Place, North Spring Street and South Spring Street.
• East Hopkins Avenue between South Aspen Street and Original Street.
• Monarch Street between Durant Avenue and East Main Street.
• East Hyman Avenue between Galena Street and Original Street.
• East Cooper Avenue between Galena Street and east-side neighborhoods.
• There will be a detour from the Hunter Creek/Red Mountain/Centennial area along East Bleeker Street, allowing access to Highway 82 heading downvalley.
• There will be a westbound detour along East Durant Avenue, past the Rubey Park bus depot and Wagner Park toward the city’s West End.
• The Hunter Creek Bus route will not operate from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. because of the numerous street closures.
• Mountain Valley Dial-a-Ride will not operate from noon to 5 p.m. because of the Independence Pass closure. Extra service will be available before and after the closure.
• Visitors making their way upvalley may take advantage of free parking at the Brush Creek Intercept Lot. RFTA buses will be traveling frequently between the event and the lot.
• Parking will be extremely limited throughout the city. Bright signs along thoroughfares will mark where parking is prohibited. The Rio Grande parking garage will not be available to the public.
• There will be a Jumbotron screen and beer garden in Rio Grande Park for prime race viewing. Also, a street party with a DJ on East Hopkins Avenue between Mill and Monarch streets will follow the race.
• The city has issued a disclaimer that exact times and locations of closures and bus-schedule changes may vary.
Aspen Skiing Co. senior event marketing manager Deric Gunshor is co-chairman of the race’s local organizing committee and said organizers are well-prepared for whatever happens Wednesday but ironing out some last-minute details.
“The ducks are pretty much in a row,” he said. “There are some wild estimates out there as far as how many people will be coming into town for the race and we hope that doesn’t discourage anyone from coming.”
As with the city’s July Fourth parade, he said, there will be extra trash and recycling bins around town, especially along the race route. Large trash Dumpsters will handle the extra waste.
Downtown businesses learned well in advance of the need to change delivery schedules. Business operators with whom Gunshor has spoken are excited about the race and the influx of people for the inaugural event, he said.
“A lot of people are excited about the event, but they are uncertain as to what it’ll bring,” he said. “Those questions will be answered Thursday morning.”