El Jebel road plan needs refinements | AspenTimes.com

El Jebel road plan needs refinements

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

The parties trying to improve a lousy intersection in the midvalley deserve a good deal of credit for aiming to make the best of a bad situation. Unfortunately, we don’t think their best is good enough quite yet.

Eagle County is leading an effort to improve the intersection of El Jebel Road and Valley Road south of Highway 82 in El Jebel. The improvements are needed, in part, because of the traffic generated by a proposed indoor recreation center at Crown Mountain Park.

The Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District’s board of directors has stepped up with a pledge to build one leg of a realigned Valley Road, contingent on voter approval of funding for the rec center and associated costs. The road would be relocated to the south of the Eagle County office building and community center.

Meanwhile, Eagle County and possibly the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will make improvements to the intersection and realign another short stretch of Valley Road.

Our concern about the road improvement plan is simple: It is so oriented toward accommodating vehicles that it comes at the expense of pedestrians and park users.

Crown Mountain, to its credit, has proposed a pedestrian underpass to get park users beneath the realigned Valley Road safely. That’s a step in the right direction. Eagle County must make the same commitment to build a pedestrian underpass beneath El Jebel Road to provide another vital link. To rebuild the intersection but leave a pedestrian crossing at grade would be a waste of taxpayer money.

Our second problem with the plan isn’t addressed as easily. There is something fundamentally wrong with ramming a road through a park – even if it’s the edge of the park. The proposal to realign Valley Road will force relocation of a paved, one-mile loop path in Crown Mountain. It is the most heavily used amenity at the popular park. In addition, it’s a bad idea to relocate a road, sometimes with relatively high traffic volume, next to soccer fields that are crammed with kids three seasons of the year. (Currently, Valley Road is separated from the fields by a parking lot.)

We aren’t convinced Valley Road must be wrapped south of the Eagle County office building and community center. Crown Mountain Park is among the best amenities in the midvalley. Eagle County played a pivotal role in making it happen. Now the county owes it to the midvalley to find a way to improve the intersection of El Jebel Road and Valley Road without messing up a good thing.