Aspen’s Jail Trail to get $600k regrade to make it less steep
Project will fix popular section from Main Street to Rio Grande Park
The majority of Aspen City Council agreed Monday to make modifications to the infamously steep Jail Trail that connects Rio Grande Park to Main Street, although one elected official expressed concern over spending $500,000 on the nearly $600,000 project.
The 278-foot-long path, which runs in between the county jail and the Rio Grande building, is currently at a 12% grade. That will be changed to 7.5%, which is not ADA compliant but due to the constraints in the area that is as good as it can get, according to the city’s engineers.
Councilwoman Ann Mullins said during Monday’s work session that she does not support the project, particularly that the necessary retaining walls on either side of the trail will create a dark, tunnel effect.
“In terms of priority to spend over a half of a million dollars for a trail that is not accessible to everyone … I’m just not convinced this is the right place to put the money,” she said. “It just seems like an elaborate solution that is not something that’s going to work for everybody.”
The impetus for regrading the trail is because it’s going to get ripped up anyway because Pitkin County is required to replace the storm water system within the corridor as part of its permit for the courthouse and jail remodel.
The county and city entered into an intergovernmental agreement and divvied up the costs, with the city on the hook for $490,000 for the trail improvements and the county paying $101,000 for its portion of the work.
Both government entities and others who use the trail frequently have been concerned for years about safety issues on what is a high-use corridor among pedestrians and bikers.
The 12% grade makes it difficult or unusable for many users, especially those who are pushing a baby stroller up or riding a bike down toward Rio Grande Place.
Taking it to a 7.5% grade will create a trail that is more inviting and safe for users, according to city staff.
The design of the project incorporates a stepped down concrete retaining wall on the jail side and a boulder wall along the Rio Grande building side.
The concrete retaining wall will be about 8 feet tall at its highest point. Planting will be included on both sides, including vines and low-water plants.
The asphalt will be replaced with concrete to match the aesthetic of the surrounding area and increase the longevity of the trail surface.
Pete Rice, the city’s division manager in the engineering department, said the project has been designed internally and a professional cost estimate may come in lower than his team’s projection.
“Maybe that will help us get the costs dialed in more,” he said. “If we can look at it a little bit longer I think we can dial it in on what we need to make modifications to.”
Council also agreed to improvements to an east end neighborhood that has safety issues between cars and pedestrians.
Rather than creating one-way streets on either Park Avenue or Midland Avenue, as once was suggested, council agreed to putting a sidewalk on Park Avenue’s east side between Midland and Hopkins avenues.
It will require some homeowners in the area to have to remove some of their landscaping as it is in the city’s right of way and engineers need room on the narrow road.
“I’m going to error on the side of pedestrian safety versus landscaping,” Councilwoman Rachel Richards said.
Councilman Ward Hauenstein concurred.
“Pedestrian safety is more important to me and I hate to say this but all those people that built their landscaping in the public right of way did that at their own risk,” he said.
Homeowner Bob Kern said he will push back on the project because putting a sidewalk in front of his house will create snow removal and storage issues, among other problems.
“So you want the four houses on our section of Park Avenue to take responsibility for the whole traffic flow of the neighborhood when you are not addressing what the issue is, which are people speeding on the other section of Park Avenue as it goes out toward Highway 82,” he said. “If you are going to fix something why don’t you fix that, where the speeding is happening, not on the area of Park Avenue where there is no speeding?”
The city also will improve the intersection of Hopkins and Park avenues, and the drainage on the Hopkins trail in the next couple of years.
Drainage issues on Midland Avenue also will be addressed in the coming years.
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Highway 82 east of Aspen over Independence Pass is closed for safety reasons Tuesday as the latest snowstorm rolls into the Colorado mountains, according to CDOT.