County seeks input on traffic plan
If you’ve had your fill of traffic jams along the stretch of Highway 82 closest to Aspen, tonight your complaints won’t fall on deaf ears.The county’s Public Works Department wants to hear about what commuters experience and if proposed changes will help or hinder.It’s all part of an “access control plan” the county has been working on. The plan looks at where the next major developments will crop up along the highway and decides where to make changes to the road for the increased traffic.The county has interviewed everyone who owns land between the Maroon Creek bridge and Smith Hill Way – the road that runs from Highway 82 toward Woody Creek. It has also studied traffic levels at each intersection in the area and is determining what changes will be needed for future development.Tonight the county is looking for feedback from valley residents.”We don’t want another Colfax [Avenue in Denver] out there with stoplights as often as they can be placed,” said Brian Pettet, director of the Pitkin County Public Works Department. “We want things to be centralized and intersections to run efficiently.”Transportation and development often lead to a “chicken or the egg” scenario, Pettet said – should traffic be dealt with after development is in place, or should traffic be planned for by predicting what could be built?In the case of this project, it’s the latter.”We’re really putting transportation planning in front of development,” Pettet said. Pettet says the Burlingame affordable housing project near the Aspen Airport Business Center is a good example of a future development that will affect traffic on the highway. He also lists redevelopment of Buttermilk, any expansion of the Aspen airport and any other commercial development being proposed alongside the North 40 subdivision as having an impact on the highway.”Development in that area seems to be what we see happening – it’s where developable land exists right now,” Pettet said. “We want to get transportation planning ahead of those development impacts.”That means determining the best size for intersections to handle future traffic, or whether some smaller inlets to the highway should be relocated altogether. A small intersection downvalley from Brush Creek Road could be redirected to connect with the road’s large intersection with Highway 82, Pettet said.Also, the possibility of moving the intersection of Highway 82 and Baltic Avenue, which heads into the Aspen Airport Business Center, will be addressed. Already, the intersection is being expanded to handle increased traffic, Pettet said.”We don’t want roads everywhere – this is a balancing act here between impacting the community and allowing traffic to flow efficiently,” he said.So far, landowners along Highway 82 have overwhelmingly told the county they think the high occupancy vehicle lanes hinder traffic flow and safety along the highway. They also commented on the dubious safety of Smith Hill Way and Highway 82, saying acceleration lanes are needed heading upvalley and sight lines at the intersection could be improved.Access control plans like this one must go through a formalized public process before they can go into effect. They state that the highway infrastructure won’t change beyond what is planned. Once that occurs, Pettet said, it is difficult to amend the plan.But the benefit of the plan becoming law, Pettet said, is that the county can plan financially for changes to the road. If a development occurs that has not been addressed in the plan, the county can determine how much improvement is needed and possibly charge a developer a fee for the work.The public is invited to tonight’s meeting about the access control plan for Highway 82 between the Maroon Creek bridge and Smith Hill Way. Pettet said current traffic volumes and what the future will present to development and traffic in the area will be discussed. The meeting is from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Rio Grande Conference Room – the former Aspen Youth Center. For more information, call the Pitkin County Public Works Department at 920-5390.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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