Basalt will see end to commuter hell
Basalt officials have a message for commuters enduring some screwydriving conditions in the town: Hang on for a few more months.A couple of road projects scheduled for completion this summerand fall should significantly improve traffic flow in and aroundtown, said Basalt Public Works Director Gerry Pace. “Then everybody can just say, `Thank God, it’s over,” Pace said.”We’re in detour mode right now.” The relief is coming from the Colorado Department of Transportation’swidening of Highway 82 to four lanes in the Holland Hills areaand Basalt’s addition of a downvalley-only lane spurring off therecently extended Midland Avenue. Pace said the Holland Hills project will move the “Worm Hole”- where the highway narrows to two lanes – farther upvalley, eliminatingtraffic snarls on the Basalt Bypass. Once the four-laning is completed at Holland Hills, CDOT has agreedto open the eastern intersection of Highway 82 and Two RiversRoad to two-way traffic. Currently, vehicles can exit Highway82 onto Two Rivers Road, but they cannot pull onto the highway.Once that intersection opens to two-way traffic, commuters headingto Aspen from neighborhoods like Elk Run will be able to enterHighway 82 at that signalized intersection. The Holland Hills four-laning is scheduled to be completed byOctober, according to Ralph Trapani, the CDOT engineer overseeingall four-laning work. The contractor is currently ahead of schedule,but it is difficult to predict if the job will be finished aheadof time, he said. Additional pressure on the roundabout will be relieved by thetown’s construction of a “downvalley slip lane” for traffic headingdownvalley. Commuters will be able to leave downtown Basalt onMidland Avenue then merge onto Highway 82 via that new road. The Basalt Town Council awarded a contract to Meldor ConstructionTuesday night for about $299,000. The total cost of the projectis estimated at $330,000. Pitkin County is contributing $175,000out of its highway use-tax fund. Meldor anticipates completing the downvalley connection from MidlandAvenue within 80 days after the contract is officially awardednext week, according to Pace. Pace said commuters may be mistakenly placing the blame for Basalt’straffic flow problems on the roundabout. “The Worm Hole is the cause of all the problems on the roundaboutany way,” he said. He guaranteed the town’s roundabout will operate much more smoothlyby fall. Town Manager Tom Baker informed the Town Council that he has receivedsome complaints recently about roundabout congestion. After discussingpossible solutions with Pace, traffic engineers and CDOT officials,he concluded no real improvements can be made until projects arecompleted later this year. “Therefore, I will advise everyone who brings this concern tomy attention that in the fall of 1999, a permanent traffic signalwill be installed at south Two Rivers Road and State Highway 82and alleviate traffic congestion on the roundabout,” Baker wroteto council members.
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Bluebird skies, spring-like temperatures and a few inches of snow from Monday night’s storm helped Snowmass skiers and snowboarders cruise into the season Wednesday for opening day.