Buttermilk lifts start up as do new traffic lights on highway
Temporary traffic signals strung across Highway 82 at the entrance to Buttermilk Ski Area and the nearby Owl Creek Road intersection will be in operation starting Saturday.
The signal lights at Buttermilk should ease access in and out of the ski area when it opens this weekend, according to Ralph Trapani, Colorado Department of Transportation engineer.
CDOT was forced to install both signals, located within 500 feet of each other, because the two intersections are so close together, he said.
CDOT had hoped to combine the Owl Creek and Buttermilk intersections before the ski season, creating just one signalized intersection with Highway 82. Because the work isn’t done, the agency put up temporary lights at both intersections.
The need to improve safety in the area once Buttermilk starts generating a lot of traffic dictated installation of both traffic lights, Trapani said. The temporary signals may come down in the spring, when Buttermilk closes.
“Once Buttermilk closes, there probably isn’t a need for those signals,” he said. “We’ll make the final decision then, but I would like to remove those signals if we can.”
By Nov. 1, 2001, the four-laning of the highway between the Aspen Airport Business Center and Buttermilk should be complete. At that time, access to Buttermilk will come off the newly realigned Owl Creek Road, eliminating the existing Buttermilk entrance. A permanent traffic signal will be installed at the Owl Creek Road intersection with Highway 82, Trapani said.
Meanwhile, CDOT expects to activate the temporary signals tonight. They will flash yellow for Highway 82 traffic and red to the side traffic on Owl Creek and at Buttermilk. Then, Saturday morning, they will be fully operational, according to Trapani.
Commuters on the highway shouldn’t have to stop twice in rapid succession at the two intersections, Trapani added.
“If you get through the first one, you’ll get through the second one,” he said.
A pedestrian crosswalk will be located at the Buttermilk intersection to make crossing the highway at Buttermilk and the Inn at Aspen safer.
The Aspen Skiing Co. is urging skiers and boarders heading to and from Buttermilk to ride the free skier shuttles that serve the ski area from Aspen and Snowmass Village.
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A driver looking to squeeze one last four-wheel drive up Aspen Mountain discovered that it’s not the ascent but the descent that poses a challenge.