Council approves Castle Creek Bridge improvements to begin in the spring
Aspen City Council on Monday night approved contracts totaling just over $4.65 million for long-awaited improvements to the Entrance to Aspen.
The project’s key component is an 8-foot-wide concrete trail from Bugsy Barnard Park across the north side of Castle Creek Bridge to Seventh and Hallam streets. There also will be new bus shelters both in and outbound, as well as a new intersection and crosswalk location near Eighth Street.
For the past several years, elected officials have been working to fix safety issues that the narrow corridor creates for pedestrians and cyclists, who are often in conflict with heavy vehicle traffic. And currently, two-way traffic on the bridge’s north sidewalk is nearly impossible for bicyclists and pedestrians.
In order to widen that sidewalk, the road will have to be narrowed by 2 feet. That has caused some consternation by motorists and nearby residents who already feel the two-lane road is too congested. About 27,000 vehicles pass over the bridge daily.
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In response, the city did multiple experiments last year that widened the sidewalk with temporary barriers. It led to a 67 percent increase by pedestrians and cyclists during that time, according to city officials. They also reported that the experiment determined there was no substantial impacts to traffic flow and traffic patterns created by the proposed design.
The overhaul of the corridor and the nearby bus shelters will necessitate closing the thoroughfare off and on this spring, summer and fall.
Work is scheduled to start April 2 and will run through June 11. Work will stop from June 12-Aug. 12, and then resume until October.
“We don’t want them working during the high period,” said Pete Rice, the senior project manager for the city. “Just know there will be delays getting in and out of town.”
Work was supposed to start last summer but because area contractors were busy with other projects, no one bid on it. This time around, Gould Construction was the sole bidder.
Council budgeted for the work in 2015, when the project was estimated to be $3.6 million. But since then, construction costs have increased.
Councilman Ward Hauenstein said he is concerned about the current $4.65 million price tag, especially without a so-called “cobra fence,” which fans out more than the planned linear guardrail.
“This has been a difficult one for me,” he said. “It’s a lot of money for a transportation corridor.”
Hauenstein failed to get majority support on the council to delay approving the contracts, so further study could happen on the cobra fence. The idea was pursued two years ago and the cost estimate for that particular fence was $1 million, according to Mayor Steve Skadron.
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Wayne Hall took a job as an air traffic controller at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in 2003 thinking he would stay for a short time. Instead he stayed for nearly 17 years and was promoted up to the position of air traffic manager. He reflected on the experience upon retirement.