CDOT mulls Smith Way fix |

CDOT mulls Smith Way fix

Charles Agar

Members of the community had a chance Wednesday to voice their opinions to CDOT about plans to put a stop light at the intersection of Smith Way and Highway 82, outside of Aspen.Because of increasing traffic and concern over accidents at the busy intersection, CDOT was able to secure $1.7 million from a federal hazard elimination grant to fix the situation. CDOT officials and engineers from Short Elliot Hendrickson Inc., the firm CDOT hired to do the intersection improvement feasibility study, were on hand Wednesday at the Pitkin County Library to hear from citizens.Engineers hung up detailed diagrams of the three most viable options: A $1.65 million plan to add traffic lights in four directions and widen the median between the east- and westbound lanes of Highway 82; two plans (costing $1.9 million and $2.2 million, respectively) involve left-turn ramps, as well as similar traffic lights and widening the median. A roundabout at the intersection would come with a hefty $3.64 million pricetag.Toni Kronberg, Aspen’s political gadfly extraordinaire, was on-hand and said she has been petitioning CDOT about Smith Way. As a former paramedic, she knows how devastating an accident can be, she said.”I’m against all stoplights at this intersection,” she said. A light would only cause more accidents because there are too many blind spots, hills and congestion at the Smith Way intersection, she said. The county commissioners need to “bite the bullet” on this one and come up with the money to build a roundabout. She said people travel that section of highway at high speeds, and if there is a light, people will run the red and cause even worse accidents. “A roundabout is more expensive but it makes sense,” she said.Anthony Smith lives near Smith Way and goes through the intersection daily on his commute. He agreed a roundabout is the only solution to the intersection and said trucks loaded with construction material pulling onto 82 from Smith Way are the biggest concern. During rush hour, he often has to turn right from Smith Way going downvalley on 82 before making a turn to go up valley because of congestion.”Of course a light will help but it’s not ideal,” he said. Smith is a native of South Africa and said roundabouts are common there, and work. He also advocates roundabouts at other major intersections along 82.Laurie VanWoerkom has been a Woody Creek resident since the early 1970s, and Bob Krueger has lived in Brush Creek since 1969. Both oppose a light and said that adding a short acceleration lane to the upvalley stretch of 82 would improve the intersection. The added lane would make it easier for trucks loaded with construction materials to turn from Smith Way onto 82 heading to Aspen.”To be good public servants, we need to get input and consider everyone’s opinion,” Sean Yeates, CDOT resident engineer, said Wednesday.”The $1.7 million grant is intended to reduce T-Bone crashes at the Smith Way intersection,” he said, adding that the funding does not preclude other options than adding a light. If the county wanted to kick in the extra funds for a roundabout, for example, then CDOT could do it, he said. Yeates said he was happy to hear local input on the issue and will bring his findings to CDOT engineers. There will be no continued public process and the agency will decide the matter in coming months. They hope to field proposals in April and start construction in May.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.

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