Council: Streets in crummy shape |

Council: Streets in crummy shape

John Colson

Two members of the Aspen City Council think the town’s streets are in crummy shape this winter. And they want the streets department to do something about it.

Council member Jake Vickery, at Monday’s brown bag luncheon meeting, complained that the streets are too icy these days. He said cars are sliding through intersections and having accidents even when traveling at relatively slow speeds.

“It’s all over the city,” said Vickery, adding that he has noticed it happening in particular at the intersection outside his business – Spring and Main streets.

“It’s been slipperier than usual,” conceded Mayor John Bennett. But he said it is simply one of those things that must be accepted and tolerated when living in the high country.

“I take a slightly contrarian view of winter,” Bennett declared. “It’s cold, streets get slippery, we’ve just got to deal with it. It’s a reality of living in the mountains at 8,000 feet.”

It was noted generally that the city has been using a deicer known as magnesium chloride on the streets for several years. The chemical lowers the freezing temperature of water and prevents the formation of ice down to a temperature of six degrees Fahrenheit.

The city switched to mag chloride as an alternative to “sand,” which actually is 3/8-inch washed rock that had been used for years to improve traction. But it was found that the rock was being crushed by passing cars and thrown into the air. The resultant clouds of pollution, known as PM-10, have been deemed a health hazard by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Health Department.

Council member Terry Paulson, who gets around town on his bicycle throughout the year, objected to the use of mag chloride itself, on the grounds that it collects into piles of dense, half-frozen mush that makes it difficult for bicyclists to negotiate the streets. He suggested the city streets department is trying to save money by using mag chloride and then cutting back on the frequency of the plowing schedules.

“I’d rather pay the extra buck and plow more,” Paulson said. “This stuff lays around for days.”

City streets superintendent Jack Reid said Monday that he is trying to balance the use of mag chloride, sand and the city’s plowing to obtain the best results.

“We put down a little mag and a little sand,” he said. “We’re trying to keep from putting a whole lot of sand down, because of what it does to the air quality. We make a real effort not to use mag-chlor excessively.”

He said the weather pattern of the region, with light snows followed by warm days and freezing nights, has contributed to the ice buildup that makes driving hazardous.

But he said his crews use only sand on spots where ice has formed on the street, because “mag-chlor will make it slicker.”

And, he said, his crews generally avoid using sand or magnesium chloride in residential areas, at the request of the residents.

The council decided Monday to have Reid appear at a council meeting to talk about his department’s wintertime streets maintenance program.

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