County commissioners to consider Castle Creek guardrail plan
June 4, 2012
ASPEN – A public proposal to install guardrails along potentially dangerous sections of Castle Creek Road south of Aspen will see its first formal review Tuesday with a presentation to Pitkin County commissioners.
County staffers were approached more than a year ago with a proposal to install close to six miles of guardrails along the winding, scenic road, according to Brian Pettet, county director of public works. The safety improvement, urged by billionaire Bill Koch, a part-time area resident with a home about 10 miles up the road, was to be privately financed.
Through subsequent discussion and with input from other residents along the road, the proposal was reduced to 12,600 feet of guardrails and then was reduced further to about 6,500 feet.
“It’s a much more reasonable amount of guardrail,” Pettet said.
The cost of the installation, estimated at close to $300,000, would be financed by the Citizens of Castle Creek, a nonprofit group, according to its representatives, planning consultants Tom Newland and Glenn Horn.
A memo to commissioners from the consultants contends there are several “very dangerous” sections of the road that could be made safer to negotiate, particularly during the winter months.
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Placement of guardrails in critical areas can help prevent serious accidents and make the road safer for all of its users, according to the memo.
The scaled-back plan no longer includes a guardrail along a stretch where the road closely parallels Castle Creek; some residents objected to obstructing the view of the creek. The guardrails would be placed as far as possible from the asphalt surface to provide space for vehicles and bicyclists, and they would provide space for potential future widening of the road, according to the proposal.
The stretches where guardrails are proposed are curved and adjacent to steep drop-offs and have a history of accidents, according to the consultants. Specifically, the areas include the curve above the Marolt Ranch housing complex, the curve above Music School Road, the curves below Hall Drive, the area above Midnight Mine Road, the curves just north of the first bridge over Castle Creek, the area below and above Little Annie Road, and near the Hayden Peak trailhead. An extension of a guardrail to the south of the existing rail along the upper bridge over Castle Creek also is proposed.
Koch hired a consultant to assess the severity of the hazards along the road; the county does its own hazard evaluations on county roads, Pettet said.
“We haven’t seen the need for guardrails on Castle Creek Road,” he said. “Castle Creek is among a lot of county roads that have exposure. If there was a significant danger that the county had seen, we’d be putting up guardrails.”
Though the guardrails would be privately financed, there are fiscal implications for the county as they will require maintenance over time, Pettet said.
No decision is being sought from commissioners Tuesday. The discussion is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. in the Rio Grande Meeting Room, and Pettet said he’d like to know what county residents think about the proposal.
“This is a valley character issue balanced with public safety,” he said.