Crossing Main Street is all about the timing |

Crossing Main Street is all about the timing

City of Aspen to take over traffic signal management from state

People cross at Mill and Main streets in downtown Aspen as cars attempt to turn near Hotel Jerome on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. In an attempt to take control of the traffic lights and cross walk signals, the City of Aspen is negotiating a contract with the Colorado Department of Transportation.(Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The city of Aspen will soon be the master of its own domain when it comes to the four traffic signals on Main Street.

The city engineering department is currently negotiating a contract with the Colorado Department of Transportation to take control of the traffic lights at Galena, Mill, Monarch and Aspen streets.

The advantage the city will have is to time the signals so pedestrian safety is paramount while at the same time not backing up traffic.

City Engineer Trish Aragon and her team in the engineering department have been working with CDOT for more than a year on making the transition.

“CDOT has been very accommodating. They want to make sure we feel comfortable with it and support us,” she said. “They absolutely understand that it makes sense to have us manage it because their offices are in Grand Junction, (and) it takes time to respond to issues.”

As part of the contract with CDOT, which is expected to come before Aspen City Council for approval next month, there will be a traffic study done over the next three months.

“Once we get consent from council we’re essentially taking them over,” said Pete Rice, a division manager in the city’s engineering office.

It’s been about six years since the last timing signal study was done for Main Street, which is a state highway and under the purview of CDOT.

Rice said a consultant will conduct the study, which costs $43,000 and is reimbursable by CDOT.

“The consultant will help us work with council on what they want the signals to be timed for, which will probably be more pedestrian friendly,” he said.

The study will examine how long green, yellow and red signals last, as well as wait times for pedestrians and how they interact with vehicles.

The intersection of Mill and Main streets (in front of the Hotel Jerome) is on the radar for city engineers.

“When you are crossing to the south on Main Street from the north you are watching for those cars turning and it’s kind of like this race of who gets out there first,” Aragon said. “Things that we are looking for are leading signals so pedestrians get the signal to go before cars do so you are already crossing.”

While the city can make timing changes, it does still need to follow certain rules from CDOT so vehicles do not back up into other intersections.

CDOT focuses on general vehicular movement and meeting requirements for standard intersections, according to Rice.

Under the contract, the city would be able to control and optimize traffic signal timing.

To upgrade the traffic signals will cost around $46,000, which the city will pay for and be reimbursed, according to Rice.

Over the years, citizens and council have intimated that Main Street’s traffic signals should have increased pedestrian focus.

So council agreed in January 2020 for the city to pursue a partnership with CDOT.

“This has been a long process but we wanted to understand everything we were getting into and make sure we were complying with everything that CDOT wants us to do and so that is why it’s taken so long,” Aragon said. “It’s a good thing for everyone, CDOT, the city and it’s a good thing for pedestrians.”


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