`Doing all we can’
No, the roundabout project couldn’t be started later this year and yes, those in charge are doing everything possible to limit traffic delays.
That’s how the Pitkin County public works director is responding to charges by residents that the project is ill-timed and ill-planned.
The peak summer season is obviously a miserable time to launch a major construction project. But starting in June was the only way to complete the roundabout at the Maroon Creek intersection by November, said Stan Berryman, public works director.
“It’s a very complicated, complex project and – if anything- it would have been better to have started a month earlier,” said Berryman, who is the local supervisor for the project. “The worst of all evils would be to leave this undone, which would disrupt traffic all winter.”
Local newspapers have received letters from readers on an almost-daily basis complaining about the timing of the project. And some have argued that little is being done to relieve the huge backups that have caused many commuters’ tempers to overheat.
Although the roundabout is not being built by the Colorado Department of Transportation, state engineers have been keeping tabs on the work and have reported that all possible measures are being taken to reduce traffic back-ups.
“I can’t come up with any way the situation can be improved,” said Ralph Trapani, the regional construction engineer for CDOT, who confirmed that the project would be “physically impossible” to complete in the winter.
“Anytime you build in that tight an area, there will be delays. The best way to avoid delays would have been to build 15 to 20 years ago before traffic into Aspen got so heavy,” he added.
The three primary steps implemented to reduce congestion are: eliminating traffic stops during rush hour, manually operating the signals at Maroon Creek Road and Cemetery Lane from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and setting up signs to warn drivers of possible delays.
Construction only occurs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays and some Saturdays. But traffic control is on duty from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week, said Randy Ready, assistant city manager.
“We’re taking traffic control very seriously and doing everything possible to reduce delays,” he said.
One thing not being done, however, is designating formal detours. Parts of alternate routes prohibit trucks over 20 tons and attempting to divert lighter vehicles would invite “a major enforcement problem,” Berryman said.
There have been negative calls to the city and county but nothing “inordinate,” Berryman noted.
“We just ask for everyone’s patience,” Berryman remarked. “The end result will be well worth it and we’re doing things as fast as humanly possible.”
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