Commissioners will ‘tweak’ El Jebel road project
EL JEBEL – The Eagle County commissioners listened to concerns of midvalley residents Thursday evening and said they will try to “tweak” plans for a major road overhaul in El Jebel south of Highway 82.
About 75 people showed up for a meeting to discuss a proposal that would move the intersection of El Jebel Road and Valley Road and realign Valley Road south of the Eagle County office building and community center. Virtually all audience members who spoke were critical of the proposal.
“We used to be able to raise kids and not worry about traffic and noise, and you all are ruining that, literally,” said Shae Ross, who has lived in and adjacent to the Sopris Village subdivision for numerous years.
Ross contended that the preferred alternative that a traffic consultant submitted to Eagle County isn’t a legitimate solution.
“It’s taking what’s not good and making it 10 times worse,” she said. “Eliminate it, and start from scratch.”
Numerous Sopris Village residents said they fear the proposal would dump traffic into the quiet, blue-collar neighborhood of 130 homes. Under the proposed design, Sopris Village’s streets would become a shortcut for motorists leaving a soccer game at Crown Mountain Park, for example, and heading to Whole Foods Market, which is scheduled to open in August.
“It’s a disaster to funnel any more traffic through there,” said Dave Hjerleid, a Sopris Village resident. He asked the county commissioners if the quality of life in Sopris Village was as important as convenience for motorists.
Sopris Village resident Michael Meiners said the preferred alternative “is not in the best interests of the community.”
“If you build this, our kids, our old people, our dogs are at risk,” Meiners said, referring to the risk of increased traffic.
Nathaniel Crawford, a 10-year-old resident of Sopris Village, said he is concerned the proposed intersection will make the roads unsafe for him and other kids. He put the commissioners on the spot by asking them not to allow it.
Sopris Village is next to Crown Mountain Park and adjacent to the proposed road realignment, so residents there have paid the most attention to the project. But Crown Mountain Park users outside of the subdivision also expressed concerns about the proposal. Basalt resident Janice Duroux said the Crown Mountain playground and walking loop is immensely popular because they are removed from roads. The proposed realignments will bring park users into too much contact with the road, she said.
The commissioners got the messages, based on their comments. They defended the need to seek solutions to the traffic flow on the south side of Highway 82 at El Jebel. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will build a 90-space park-and-ride lot in 2013 for a new bus stop. Crown Mountain Park wants to build an indoor recreation center and associated facilities that could eventually add as much as 161,000 square feet. Those projects will overburden the roads as they currently exist, according to county officials and their consultants.
The commissioners approved Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District’s plan last week. Last night they asked district officials to consider reducing the proposed square footage to reduce the potential traffic impact. Park district officials were noncommittal. The exchange begged the question why the topic wasn’t part of discussions last week.
Crown Mountain will require voter approval for a tax increase to build the recreation center. That approval won’t be sought in 2012 because of the slow economic recovery. If Crown Mountain never advances with its plan, the road and intersection work may never be necessary, county officials said.
Meanwhile, planning continues. The county hired local firm Schmuesser Gordon Meyer to work on the design. The commissioners made it clear they want the consultant and county staff to work with a project team – which includes representatives from Sopris Village, Crown Mountain and RFTA – to work on concerns raised at Thursday’s meeting. The design proposal will come back to the commissioners later this year.
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