Basalt deadlocked on Willits Lane trail
Basalt officials have been making decisions for five years that have increased traffic on Willits Lane, but efforts to make travel safer for pedestrians will have to wait.
The Town Council was deadlocked 3-3 last week on whether to approve a proposal by the Midvalley Trails Committee to build a path that would get cyclists and walkers off the majority of Willits Lane.
The opponents of the proposal – Mayor Rick Stevens and councilmen Leroy Duroux and Steve Solomon – expressed a variety of concerns and contended more planning is needed.
Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt, a trail proponent, said she understood the need for more planning but felt it was outweighed in this case by the need for safer travel.
“I’m not sure that citizens are going to be real pleased with us,” Whitsitt said. “I’m not sure they’re going to buy it. I wouldn’t.” No more sleepy lane Basalt’s land-use direction is helping transform Willits from a once-sleepy country lane into an arterial road. The town annexed much of the land within an island formed by Willits and Highway 82 about five years ago.
The road already saw a fair share of traffic from the businesses at the Midvalley Design Center and scattered residences. But the Town Council has approved hundreds of residential units since 1996 that will be served by Willits Lane. About two-dozen of those homes have already been built, generating additional traffic on the road.
The narrow road has seen enough of an increase in traffic in recent years to make walking and biking along it treacherous at times.
The Midvalley Trails Committee, an arm of Eagle County, recommended building a trail on the south side of Willits Lane, from near the Willits/Two Rivers Road intersection with Highway 82 to near Hooks Bridge. The trail would then cross the road and continue adjacent to it until the boundary of the Willits subdivision. $164,000 budget The trail would cost about $164,000. Roughly $59,000 would come from a fund Basalt is collecting from developers for Willits Lane improvements. Another $85,000 would come from Eagle County sales taxes earmarked for trails.
Basalt is being asked to chip in an additional $10,000 from its trails funds and Eagle County would be asked to fund the $10,000 balance.
The Willits developers are responsible for a trail from their property to an existing trail accessing City Market.
The committee’s proposal was supported by Councilwomen Anne Freedman and Tracy Bennett as well as Whitsitt, who also sits on the trails committee.
Councilman Chris Lane, who would have been the deciding vote, was out of town on business. Calm it down Councilman Solomon explained that he felt Basalt first needs to take a more detailed look at the future of Willits Lane.
Specifically, he said, the Town Council must determine if Willits Lane should be allowed to become a high-speed thoroughfare or whether steps should be taken to slow traffic down.
“I think the road should be slowed immeasurably,” he said.
Solomon said it currently handles an estimated 20,000 vehicle trips per day. The council is reviewing commercial proposals for the Willits development that could add another 20,000 vehicle trips. Then there are thousands of trips per day that will be added by the already-approved residential development.
Solomon acknowledged that given that traffic load, planning for a pedestrian trail should have been undertaken sooner by the Basalt board. He thinks the planning and decision-making on Willits Lane can be accomplished this month.
Like Solomon, Stevens and Duroux said they support the idea of a trail, just not as proposed. Stevens said he was uncomfortable with the projected construction budget. He indicated the costs would be higher than the estimated $165,000.
He also said he felt the trail would better serve people on the north side of Willits Lane. Duroux agreed and he opposed moving the road even closer to the residences in the Aspen-Basalt Mobile Home Park.
The board indicated it might take the debate of the trail up again later this month.
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