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County plans road overhaul at Aspen Business Center

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Pitkin County is planning a major overhaul of the street system in the Aspen Business Center on the outskirts of town, but with a projected price tag of $2.8 million, county commissioners on Tuesday hinted at a willingness to forgo some parts of the proposal.

Installation of sidewalks along the streets that wind through the residential/commercial complex, for example, were ranked as a low priority during the informal discussion among four commissioners. Commissioner Rachel Richards was absent.

The county has earmarked $2 million in 2013 for capital improvements at the business center. The top priority, county engineer G.R. Fielding said, is rebuilding a drainage system that regularly fails in its current state.

“It has been a pain our neck, frankly, from an engineering standpoint,” he said.

Heavy rains lead to water problems for buildings in the business center, which are set below the level of the streets, and an undersized system of pipes and inlets has led to occasional washouts of the Stein Trail, which leads from the business center down a steep hillside to the Roaring Fork River to the west. In addition, flooding has caused problems for the Aspen sanitation plant, located along the river, and one event in July shifted the hillside below the business center, Fielding said.

Commissioners agreed fixing the drainage should be the top priority but balked at sending the flow directly into the river without a pond or some other method to filter out pollutants.

“The direct discharge personally drives me nuts,” Commissioner Michael Owsley said.

It may be possible to create a detention pond at the bottom of the slope, Fielding said. That will be explored.

Within the business center itself, Fielding outlined plans to install curbs and gutters along the streets as part of the drainage improvements and designate about 200 on-street parking spaces to replace the hodgepodge, illegal parking on the streets that occurs now. The 300 Road, through the middle of the center, would be converted into a one-way street with angled parking on one side and parallel parking on the other. A sidewalk along every street also is envisioned, and the removal of some trees would be necessary.

Business center developer John McBride called the plans for 300 Road a “huge improvement.” Making that road more pedestrian friendly might be all that’s needed, he said.

Several commissioners questioned how much on-street parking is necessary, and Commissioner Rob Ittner suggested the private properties within the center ought to be a partner in addressing the parking issues.

“What is the need versus we just do everything we can to create more parking?” Commissioner Jack Hatfield asked.

“There is some need for additional parking,” Fielding said. “With this plan, we did go for the gusto to see how much we could create.”

Hatfield also balked at the installation of sidewalks, both because of the cost and because trees would be removed.

The improvements have been in the planning stage since 2008 and have involved the input of interested “stakeholders” at the business center, according to Fielding. He was looking for direction from commissioners to refine the plan with the goal of putting the project out for bid next winter. Formal action by commissioners will come later.

janet@aspentimes.com


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