Crown Mountain rec center takes tentative step forward
EL JEBEL – Proponents of a midvalley recreation center made some degree of progress Tuesday night when they reached a working agreement with Eagle County on a proposal to improve traffic circulation at a key intersection in El Jebel.
The review of the proposed 61,000-square-foot recreation center at Crown Mountain Park has been bogged down for several months because of concerns that additional traffic will overwhelm the intersection of Valley Road and El Jebel Road, south of Highway 82 at El Jebel.
Eagle County led efforts to study how the intersection could be fixed to handle the traffic generated by a recreation center as well as a parking lot the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority plans to build in the area.
The county commissioners, Crown Mountain board of directors and RFTA reached a tentative agreement at a meeting the commissioners held. However, the convoluted issue has numerous pieces, most of which are still to be resolved.
“It’s absolutely a work in progress, right?” said Eagle County Commissioner Chairman Peter Runyon.
Here’s the gist of Tuesday night’s direction:
• Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District agreed to pay for realignment of Valley Road to the south side of the existing Eagle County office building and community center. The realigned road will cut into the existing Crown Mountain Park and hook back into the existing Valley Road alignment in the vicinity of the existing entrance to the park. Crown Mountain volunteered for a project estimated to cost between $600,000 and $700,000 with a pedestrian underpass.
• RFTA staff members said they can live with a proposed realignment that would route another chunk of Valley Road through its proposed parking lot. The proposal will whittle down the parking but provide commuters with a clear path from the parking lot to a bus stop on Highway 82. RFTA staff had expressed concerns that Eagle County’s planning and execution would drag on too long and jeopardize its $25 million grant from the federal government, but officials were silent on that point at Tuesday’s meeting.
• Eagle County will consider funding the bulk of the improvements designed to improve traffic flow at the intersection of El Jebel Road and Valley Road. The intersection will be pulled farther back from Highway 82 so stacking of vehicles isn’t an issue. In a perfect world, said Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney, Basalt, RFTA and Pitkin County would help fund improvements. In reality, Eagle County likely will pay the bulk of the bill, he said.
The town of Basalt’s concerns that the proposed solution isn’t pedestrian friendly didn’t get discussed. From the bus stop on Highway 82, pedestrians still will be required to cross El Jebel Road.
The next step is to conduct a design study estimated to cost $200,000 and take six to eight months to complete. The process will include public open houses, though the course seems well set. Eagle County has ruled out other alternatives that a traffic consultant identified.
Crown Mountain representatives expressed concern about waiting for up to eight months for design of the road and intersection improvements. Mark Munger, chair of the recreation center’s board of directors, said great progress on traffic issues was made in recent days and even recent hours. It feels “like we broke a logjam,” he said.
However, Crown Mountain would object if the road and intersection design slows review of the recreation center by up to eight months, Munger said.
Crown Mountain must get voter approval for a property tax hike to pay for its share of the road improvements as well as the rec center. That will be a multimillion-dollar proposition.
“We have to look at a possible election in November,” said Davis Farrar, land-use planning consultant for Crown Mountain. “We haven’t made that decision yet.”
The county commissioners scheduled another meeting for April 10 to continue the review of the recreation center. The meeting will be at 5 p.m. at the Eagle County office building in El Jebel.
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