Commissioners have traffic questions about Base Village | AspenTimes.com

Commissioners have traffic questions about Base Village

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Pitkin County commissioners want to talk with the Snowmass Village Town Council about whether traffic from the proposed Base Village project will clog Brush Creek Road and put more cars on Owl Creek Road.

Most of the length of both roads is in the county, but the 683-unit Base Village project is in the Snowmass town limits. The commissioners are concerned the town will approve the new ski village and the county will have to pick up the tab for any necessary road improvements required to keep traffic moving smoothly.

“The county has no authority over what happens … but we are going to feel the impacts on our road system,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield at Tuesday’s county work session on the issue. “We will be stuck with huge traffic impacts. It is completely unfair for Pitkin County to shoulder the burden of off-site impacts.”

A detailed traffic and transit analysis is being prepared by Intrawest and the Aspen Skiing Co., which are partners in the proposed Base Village project. Earlier this month, the Snowmass Town Council granted sketch plan, or conceptual, approval to the project. A more detailed application is expected to be submitted to the town by mid-November.

The project, if approved, is expected to be built in phases over the next eight to 10 years.

The commissioners asked the town Tuesday to allow the county to have a say in a traffic analysis and to hold a meeting with them to discuss the potential impacts.

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Bud Eylar, the county’s engineer, prepared a memo for the commissioners that expressed concerns both about slow-moving construction vehicles clogging up traffic on the two-lane Brush Creek Road, and about the traffic that will be generated as people staying in the new village make their way to Aspen to eat, ski and party.

“It would not be out of line to anticipate multi-axle truck trips in excess of 100 per day for the 2-3 years of construction,” Eylar wrote in his memo. “That coupled with the hundreds of smaller vehicle trips for workers and lesser deliveries will create delays and congestion throughout the Brush Creek Road corridor.”

In addition to slowing traffic on Brush Creek Road, which could prompt calls for either expensive passing lanes or even a four-laning of the access road, the county is concerned about a jump in traffic on Owl Creek Road, which today sees about 2,300 vehicles a day. Snowmass officials have often rejected the concept of four-laning Brush Creek Road and have instead sought to stabilize the amount of parking in the village as a way of controlling traffic growth.

“It would not be surprising to see trips on Owl Creek Road in the 4,000 to 6,000 range throughout the construction period,” Eylar wrote. “Owl Creek Road is not designed to handle these volumes. Currently, the road has tight curves, steep grades, (and) is unpaved for a significant length (over 1 mile).”

Brian Pettet, Pitkin County’s director of public works, asked the commissioners if they had considered asking Snowmass Village to annex the two roads so that the town would be responsible for making any necessary improvements.

“Snowmass is not going to annex Brush Creek Road,” said Commissioner Patti Clapper.

Fellow Commissioner Mick Ireland predicted the project would gain approval without substantial mitigation for traffic on the two roads, that the developer would sell all the condos at a handsome profit, and then some future board would be forced to raise taxes to pay for road improvements when traffic gets bad.

“That’s how taxes go up,” Ireland said.

At the end of the meeting, the commissioners directed County Manager Hillary Smith to write a letter to the Snowmass Village Town Council to express their concerns and to also set up a meeting.

[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is bgs@aspentimes.com]