Castle Creek bridge to become ‘living lab’ |

Castle Creek bridge to become ‘living lab’

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
File photo

Call it the summer of experimentation for the city of Aspen.

One day after City Council approved a parking rate hike for June, July and August to see if it detracts motorists from parking in the downtown core, elected officials OK’d a so-called living lab on the Castle Creek bridge.

The bridge experiment will begin in April and run through July. Its purpose: to see if a pedestrian friendly Castle Creek bridge, along with narrower traffic lanes, will work in an experimental mode. If it does, the city will proceed with turning the engineering experiment into a reality in 2017.

The living lab will cost taxpayers $123,000; the council also agreed to spend $176,000 on the bridge design.

This summer’s test bridge will include 7-foot-wide decking for pedestrians and cyclists. Water-filled jersey barriers will separate the path from the east- and west-bound traffic lanes. The Colorado Department of Transportation has approved the test project.

The living lab is part of the city’s effort to make the bridge a safer connector for pedestrians who use it to get in and out of town. Studies show that 35 of the 50 pedestrians who use the bridge on an hourly basis are cyclists.

Consultant Bill Fox, retained by the city for the project, said he doesn’t expect the project to affect or slow traffic flows on the bridge.

“This will not compromise the ability of that bridge to carry 27,000 cars a day,” he said in reference to July traffic figures for the bridge.

Fox, members of the city’s Engineering Department and City Council spent three hours on the topic at a work session Tuesday.

The experiment also calls for reducing traffic lanes from 12-feet-wide to 11-feet-wide.

“An 11-foot lane is still a pretty wide lane,” Fox said, noting the width is up to CDOT standards.

There were some skeptics.

Resident Michael Maple expressed a lack of confidence that the project will serve its purpose. He argued snow removal from the improved bridge could pose problems, more cyclists will use the West End and the narrower lanes will slow already congested traffic.

Councilman Adam Frisch persuaded his colleagues to extend the living-lab duration from what originally was proposed for April, May and June. Without including July, the busiest month of the year for the bridge’s traffic, the city couldn’t make a realistic conclusion if the experiment worked, he argued. The council agreed to extend the experimental period through July.

Frisch, however, failed to convince council members to extend the experiment two blocks from east of the bridge to Seventh Street, which also is part of the proposed project to make the connection safer for pedestrians. Among the improvements are reconfiguring the two bus stops on that two-block leg along with a slight realignment of Hallam Street.

At the advice of City Manager Steve Barwick, the council opted out of the idea of building a pedestrian bridge next to Castle Creek bridge. Time and money were the driving factors.