Castle Creek Trail construction starts Monday to make roadway safer near Aspen
After 12 years of stop-and-go planning, preliminary construction on the Castle Creek Trail is set to finally begin Monday, a county official said Friday.
“It’s really good news,” said Gary Tennenbaum, director of Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails program. “I feel really good about the project. We’ve waited a long time for this and we’re gonna do it right.”
Officials initially hoped the 0.6 mile-long trail between the intersection of Castle Creek Road and the Marolt Trail to the Aspen Music Festival and School and Aspen Country Day School would be fully built this summer. Delays in the design process and escalating construction costs, however, pushed the completion date to next summer, Tennenbaum said.
“We definitely had to tweak the design due to things we found in the ground,” he said.
Specifically, the trail design had to be changed once officials discovered that the base under the shoulder on one side of the road was not adequate. In addition, rockfall mitigation and retaining walls on the west side of the road turned out to be more extensive and expensive than originally estimated, Tennenbaum said.
That pushed the final cost of the trail to just under $4 million, which meant that county officials had to go back to the Aspen City Council and Pitkin County commissioners for more money.
“The rockfall mitigation was bigger than we expected,” Tennenbaum said.
The cost of the trail is being split between the city, the county, the Open Space program and the Music School. Planning costs for the trail came to about $420,000, which was covered by the city and county, Tennenbaum has said.
The work that will begin Monday and run through October will include the rockfall mitigation and construction of the retaining walls, some of which will be up to 13 feet high. Then in the spring, work will begin on construction of the actual trail, he said.
During the construction period, both lanes of Castle Creek Road will remain open until just north of Aspen Valley Hospital, when it will go down to one alternating lane. The lane closure, which is likely to begin Wednesday, will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the work area.
Traffic control devices will be in place, while flaggers may be in the area stopping cars during the day as needed, according to a Pitkin County news release. Most of the work will be done on the west or uphill side of the road.
Drivers should expect short delays going through the area. Cyclists should ride behind cars for safer passage through the area, while pedestrians are being encouraged to take the Aspen Music Festival and School shuttle provided by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, according to the release.
The main goal of the trail is to make the extremely narrow corridor leading to the school campuses safer. The current situation forces Music School and Country Day students on foot or bicycles to compete for position on the narrow road with cars, trucks and other bikers.
Tennenbaum said that during the design process this summer, the need for the trail became clear to county officials and contractors.
“The contractors out there were like, ‘Oh man, it’s obvious why we’re doing this,’” he said, alluding to the heavy car and bicycle traffic on Castle Creek Road. “I’m happy we’re moving forward.”
Tennenbaum said he hopes the trail will be available for use next summer, though that will likely depend on conditions this winter and when crews can begin construction in the spring.
Planning for the Castle Creek Trail began in 2007, but was almost immediately halted by 13 Castle Creek residents who sued to stop it. That case was later settled, and commissioners re-prioritized the trail three years ago.
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The U.S. Forest Service announced Tuesday it is starting review of Pitkin County’s proposal for a trail between Redstone and McClure Pass. The process will include two chances at public comment.