Basalt talks roundabouts |

Basalt talks roundabouts

Scott Condon
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT ” Basalt is studying whether it would make sense to install roundabouts in four places, including Highway 82, to deal with pedestrian safety and increases in traffic.

Basalt hired Ourston Roundabout Engineers of Madison, Wis., to perform a “fatal flaw analysis” at each of the four sites, Town Engineer Larry Thompson said Wednesday. The study will help Basalt officials decide whether to consider or eliminate roundabouts as possible solutions.

Even if the roundabouts can be engineered, it doesn’t mean they would be selected, Thompson said.

The four roundabouts the firm is studying are:

– On Highway 82, at or near its intersection with Basalt Avenue. That is the central entrance into Basalt, near the Diamond Shamrock gas station.

– On the northern end of Midland Avenue, near the barbershop.

– At the intersection of East Valley Road and Willits Lane. The intersection already handles traffic heading into and away from the El Jebel City Market and is expected to get busier as Willits Town Center progresses.

– On South Side Drive as it approaches the existing road to Basalt High School.

Basalt already has one roundabout at its main entrance.

A roundabout along Highway 82 would probably trigger the most debate because it would affect the most commuters. The concept emerged recently when officials from Basalt and the Colorado Department of Transportation met to discuss transit problems facing the town.

Many Basalt officials have wanted for years to establish a second connection between the main part of town and the Southside neighborhood. Currently, Basalt Avenue is the sole access to the booming area. Some Basalt leaders want to extend Midland Avenue, essentially making a connection between the Basalt post office and Big O Tires. It likely would require an underpass.

A second transit issue is pedestrian safety. Crossing Highway 82 at the existing stoplight at Basalt Avenue isn’t entirely safe, in the eyes of many officials, and students heading to high school often dash across the highway near Big O rather than walking down to the light, according to Town Manager Bill Efting.

Town officials contacted CDOT to discuss the transit problems along Highway 82. CDOT officials urged the town to consider a roundabout, which could provide numerous access points to Southside and Old Town Basalt. That would replace the stoplight at Highway 82 and Basalt Avenue.

Efting didn’t need convincing to consider a roundabout. He was sold on their efficiency and safety after witnessing how they work when well-designed.

“I built five my first year in Avon, and I wasn’t sold on them at first,” said Efting, a former town manager there. Those roundabouts were constructed 10 years ago, he said.

It might be a moot point whether a roundabout would work on Highway 82. Its unknown if federal or state funds would be available, according to Efting. Developers would have to help pay for the other three roundabouts, if those are the options selected, he said.

Thompson said the fatal flaw analysis on the roundabouts won’t be complete for “a few months.”