CDOT unveils plan to improve highway traffic flow in Aspen
September 22, 2011
ASPEN – Eight stoplights between the Aspen Airport Business Center and downtown Aspen will be altered over the next month in a way designed to make traffic flow more smoothly.
The Colorado Department of Transportation will install “loop detectors” at the intersections of Highway 82/Main Street and side streets at eight intersections. The $675,000 project has been planned for about one year.
“In Aspen, with the amount of traffic, this was a long time coming,” said CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks.
Motorists and pedestrians will benefit from the project, she said. Currently, the traffic signals are on timed cycles. The intersection at Highway 82 and Monarch Street, for example, uses timed cycles for green and red lights regardless of traffic levels. Traffic on Highway 82 often gets stopped for a red light even when no traffic is waiting to emerge from Monarch Street.
The loop detectors will eliminate the timed cycles, Shanks said. The system will detect traffic and adjust the cycles accordingly, she said, so there won’t be unnecessary triggering of red lights.
In addition, the traffic signals will be fitted with push buttons so that pedestrians can trigger the “walk” cycle only on demand. Currently, all the traffic signals except the one at Galena and Highway 82 trigger pedestrian cycles regardless of demand.
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“The upgrades will ease some congestion,” Shanks said.
The project provides two other advantages from the transportation department’s perspective: The loop detectors will eliminate the need for cameras at four intersections. The cameras detect traffic levels, but sometimes they get covered in snow and lose effectiveness, Shanks said. In addition, the eight upgraded traffic signals will be linked together, and that increased connectivity will allow technicians in Glenwood Springs to fix problems that arise via telephone lines, Shanks said.
The traffic signals targeted for work are at the intersections of Highway 82 and Airport, Harmony, Owl Creek and Truscott roads west of town, and at Galena, Mill, Monarch and Aspen streets downtown. The traffic signal at Cemetery Lane isn’t part of the project.
The project isn’t the “straight-shot” realignment of Highway 82 that some motorists are clamoring for, but it is a small step designed to improve flow, officials said.
Work is tentatively scheduled to begin Monday, Sept. 26, at the Airport Road intersection, said Tom Newland, public information officer for the project. Work will be done at one intersection at a time, progressing upvalley. The last work is tentatively scheduled to begin Nov. 24.
W.L. Contractors of Arvada, which was awarded the job, won’t have to make major cuts into the asphalt, Newland said. Instead, a machine will bore directionally beneath the road surface. Some lane closures will be necessary, but upvalley lanes will remain open until 9 a.m. on weekdays, and downvalley lanes won’t be affected between 3:30 and 6 on weekday afternoons. Savvy commuters can avoid the work at the intersections in town.
There will be an open house from 3-6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, in the City Council chambers at Aspen City Hall. Representatives of the transportation department and the contractor will be available to answer questions and discuss effects on travel.
In addition, anyone with concerns can call Tom Newland at 618-9805 or at email@example.com.