`Deadly situation’ prompts call for intersection improvements | AspenTimes.com

`Deadly situation’ prompts call for intersection improvements

John Colson

A local realtor believes that Aspen and Pitkin County officials have missed an opportunity to correct what she calls “an absolutely deadly situation” on Highway 82 just outside town.

But officials say Carol Farino is too late with her suggestions, and that the intersection in question – at the Tennis Club subdivision and the Aspen Municipal Golf Course – is likely to stay as it is for at least the winter.

Farino, president of the Tennis Club Subdivision Homeowner’s Association, has been badgering local transportation officials for a couple of weeks concerning the intersection, which is adjacent to her house. She and her neighbors live on the south side of the highway, just across from the entrance to the golf course.

According to Farino, the intersection is hazardous for cars and pedestrians leaving her subdivision to cross the highway or turn in either direction, because they are constantly in danger of being rammed by cars heading upvalley on the highway.

Any time an upvalley-bound car stops to turn left into the golf course, she said, vehicles behind the turning car tend to swerve around to the right, onto the shoulder and perilously close to both a Roaring Fork Transit Agency bus stop and the exit from the Tennis Club subdivision.

Farino said once she became aware of plans to pave a “slip lane” for buses to pull over at the stop in front of her house, she began pleading with government officials to further widen the road and create turning lanes for both upvalley and downvalley traffic at that intersection.

With such a “three-lane” configuration, she said, “lives could be saved.”

But last week, she said, she got the word that her suggestion was not being followed, because officials believe that a wider expanse of pavement would create a hazard for pedestrians crossing the highway at the intersection.

“I think it’s an absolutely deadly decision,” she said.

With the new pavement where the buses are supposed to swerve out of traffic to pick up passengers, she said, “it’s making a bad situation even more deadly than it was.” When the shoulder was potholed and dusty, cars would slow down as they swerved, she said.

“Now it’s paved, so they’re just going to fly around,” she said.

Assistant City Manager Randy Ready, who is overseeing the nearby roundabout project, conceded that Farino has a point, but said the engineering and budgeting for that intersection were done long ago.

He said that to add the turning lane would require the acquisition of additional right of way on either side of the road, or the elimination of the bus “slip lane” and the acceleration/deceleration lanes at the golf course entrance. Besides, he said, the turning lanes might not be feasible because of the short distance between the intersection and the Maroon Creek highway bridge.

Ultimately, he said, there is to be a pedestrian underpass built at the intersection, as part of the Truscott Place affordable housing expansion project.

He noted that Farino has accused him of ignoring her pleas and a dangerous situation, but said, “Nothing could be further from the truth. But we want to do it right. We truly understand the problem. It’s not a question of not agreeing that it’s a problem.”

But while officials will continue to seek a way to satisfy Farino’s demands, Ready said it is not likely anything can be done before the ski season because it is almost too cold now for asphalt work to be done.

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