Castle Creek Road ‘school zone’ coming soon near Aspen campuses |

Castle Creek Road ‘school zone’ coming soon near Aspen campuses

An Aspen Music Festival and School student crosses Castle Creek Road, heading from the Marolt Ranch housing to the bus stop. along the lower portion of Castle Creek Road

Pitkin County commissioners want to implement traffic calming measures along the lower portion of Castle Creek Road as soon as possible as part of efforts to build a trail and make the area safer.

Those measures may include reducing the 30 mph speed limit between Aspen Valley Hospital and the Aspen Music Festival and School/Aspen Country Day School, installing speed tables and fully implementing a "school zone" in the area with blinking lights, said Gary Tennenbaum, Pitkin County open space and trails director, and G.R. Fielding, county engineer.

The safety measures "are long overdue," Commissioner Greg Poschman said Tuesday, and could help solve safety problems for country day school students and music school students without spending a lot of money.

Commissioner Rachel Richards also said she liked the idea of expediting the implementation of safety measures.

"I think the mandate is there," she said.

Commissioners talked about permanently reducing the speed limit in the area from 30 mph to 20 mph. They also might decide to lower the speed limit to 15 mph when the school zone signs are blinking before and after school. Fielding's staff already installed school-zone signs in the area.

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The discussion Tuesday came amid a report from Tennenbaum about renewed efforts to build a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly trail along that heavily traveled section of the road. Open space officials have been gathering public comment since last summer about what that trail might look like.

The preliminary design that narrowly garnered a majority of public opinion put the trail on the east side of the road, with the pedestrian section below grade and a concrete retaining wall separating it from the bike path at the road level.

The cost of that alignment was estimated at $3.88 million.

However, after mulling over public comments about that plan, officials have come up with a modified east-side alignment they think they can complete for significantly cheaper, Tennenbaum said.

That new design would keep the trail entirely at the road-grade level, he said. People felt that the concrete barrier separating the below-grade pedestrian trail might make things worse for bicyclists, he said.

The trail, however, still would be physically separated somehow from the roadway, which greatly increases safety, Tennenbaum said.

The new design envisions a 6- to 8-foot pedestrian trail separated from the roadway by a 3-foot buffer, he said. A 4-foot uphill bike lane on the other side of the road also would be included.

The at-grade trail also would not require losing as many trees and other vegetation to the trail construction, Tennenbaum said.

The entire trail would be about 4,000 feet long and begin where the Marolt Trail crosses Castle Creek Road above Aspen Valley Hospital to the school campuses. Officials from both schools have spoken about and presented evidence of how dangerous it is for students to ride bikes or walk along the narrow road.

Fielding and Tennenbaum said they would come back to the board with ideas on how to quickly implement the traffic calming plan.

Tennenbaum said his staff will work on crafting the details of the modified east side alignment and come back to commissioners, the Aspen City Council, the city open space board and the county open space board with those plans. About 25 percent of the trail will be on city property and 75 percent on county property, Fielding said.