Bikeway on Galena and Cooper in Aspen pedaling forward

City of Aspen driving third round of public outreach before summer experiment on downtown corridor

The city is making a final push to get feedback on a plan designed to make a downtown corridor safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, which involves removing up to 44 parking spaces in a three-block area.

The proposal to convert all head-in parking to parallel on both sides of Galena Street and one block on Cooper Avenue has gotten the attention of some in the business community, particularly retailers who have voiced concern about how removing spaces near their stores will impact their customers.

The majority of the city’s Commercial Core and Lodging Commission are opposed to the plan, and they are working to get the word out to downtown retailers and restauranteurs to take the city’s online survey about the project and participate in two focus groups occurring later this month. Angi Wang, a commercial real estate broker for Setterfield & Bright who is in regular contact with downtown businesses, said when she asks retailers and restauranteurs about the city’s proposal they are uninformed.

“A lot of businesses don’t know about it and are upset about it because parking is an integral part of where they are located,” she said this week. “Safety can be met without taking 44 spaces away.”

Wang, also a member of the CCLC, said she plans to have board members participate in the city’s focus groups scheduled for Jan. 26 and Jan. 31.

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association will be sending information about the project to its membership and plans to participate as well.

“Our role is to convene businesses with the end result being what is best for our members,” said ACRA President and CEO Debbie Braun, adding that she is not surprised to hear that many retailers and restauranteurs are unaware of the city’s proposal because they are busy tending to their businesses and not paying attention to email blasts and the like.

In the past several months, specific outreach to downtown retailers and restauranteurs has involved a meeting with the ACRA board, a follow-up meeting with several businesses located in the Galena and Cooper corridor, and a joint ACRA-city hosted open house in which CCLC board members attended, according to Denise White, the city’s director of communications.

Also, the city’s former director of parking and downtown services, Mitch Osur, discussed the project with CCLC last fall. He indicated that the response was generally positive, White said.

Osur also had one-on-one conversations with businesses directly affected on Cooper and Galena.

City staff incorporated the feedback from outreach efforts into the current proposal for the living lab, White said.

Transforming Galena Street and Cooper Avenue so that pedestrian and bike safety is promoted with a dedicated bikeway is slated to be a living lab experiment this summer.

After this latest round of public outreach is done, the city’s engineering department will present a final detailed plan to Aspen City Council in February.

The proposal is part of the city’s overall safety and mobility in the downtown core plan in which incremental changes are being made over time.

For almost a year, the city has explored how right-of-way space could be allocated differently to increase safety for all pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

Last February, staff discussed options with council to enhance safety and mobility in Aspen’s downtown core, including improvements at individual intersections.

Another big change planned is converting Hyman Avenue between Galena and Hunter streets into a one-way route so motorists can no longer turn left from Galena.

That specific intersection was the location where a 5-year-old girl was killed by a motorist in 2020 as she walked across the street with her family.

Acknowledging that bicycles are disconnected from the downtown core and are not given accommodation on many streets, the Galena corridor is envisioned to remove the high likelihood of an accident as cars parked in angled spaces cannot see cyclists approaching.

The new parking configuration impacts 44 spaces out of 86 that are in the corridor.

One way to mitigate the loss of those spaces is to reclassify 47 parking spaces, either currently in the commercial core area or adjacent to the core boundary, from residential to commercial.

“Many different factors can influence the design and scope of the living lab project,” said PJ Murray, the city’s project manager. “So, in addition to testing our temporary changes along Galena Street and Cooper Avenue, we’re looking at what changes to things like parking times, shuttle frequency and other supplemental enhancements might complement the project’s safety goal while also providing different types of users easy access to the core.”

Overall, the city sees a consistent 85% occupancy level on parking in the core, which means there are 15% of the parking spaces in the core available for someone to park in, White said.

That may not be right in front of the business someone is headed to, but parking in the core can be found, she added.

The online questionnaire, which is available until Jan. 26, asks specific questions about supporting a valet service, upping the frequency of the Galena Street Shuttle from the parking garage to the commercial core and offering the free Downtowner car service as a ride hailing service, to name a few.

Other mitigation measures includes limiting construction parking, and adding pick-up and drop-off spaces in the corridor.

At this past Wednesday’s CCLC meeting, board members briefly discussed the corridor project and next steps for the group.

“I think we need to revisit this if we are really the group that is the liaison with the businesses,” board chair Jeb Ball said.

A meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 26 when the topic will be discussed again.

For CCLC board member Amanda Tanaka, she supports pedestrian safety in the downtown core.

“It is absolutely terrifying walking around the core,” she said.

Board vice chair Charles Cunniffe said pedestrian and bicycle safety can be accomplished another way.

“The intention is not bad but the solution is very bad,” he said.


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