Entrance solution – for Carbondale | AspenTimes.com

Entrance solution – for Carbondale

CARBONDALE – State highway planners are gearing up to solve one of the Roaring Fork Valley’s “entrance” issues with a new bridge and re-engineered highway lanes – but it’s the entrance to Carbondale, not Aspen.The Colorado Department of Transportation will soon begin seeking bids to build a second bridge platform across the Roaring Fork River, just upstream from the existing half-century old bridge.At a cost of approximately $4 million, the bridge project is expected to begin in August and be completed in fall 2008. Highway officials said this week they do not know yet whether the project will entail closing the existing bridge to traffic for any portion of the work.But the plan, according to CDOT Project Engineer Joe Elsen, is for a new four-lane entrance to town.At the same time as the bridge work is done, he said, CDOT plans to four-lane the highway between the bridge and Cowen Drive, completing the first phase of work that ultimately will mean expansion of Highway 133 to four lanes all the way through to the south edge of town.And the left-turn lane from Highway 82 onto Highway 133 is to be lengthened and widened to two lanes to better facilitate high volumes of traffic during afternoon rush-hour and other times. Currently, cars heading downvalley from Aspen to Carbondale in the afternoons and evenings often pile up past the start of the turn lane, impeding traffic in the through lanes.Elsen said the Carbondale project was the second priority in the Statewide Transportation Improvements Priority list, otherwise known as STIP, which guaranteed that as soon as funding became available the Highway 133 bridge would be funded.Still, he conceded, “We’re kind of tight on it” with a $4 million cap on the funding. But he said the department does not expect to run into any delays due to funding shortfalls.Elsen was not certain if the bridge project would require any closures of the existing bridge, but said that “we really strive to keep the commuters going” during the rush-hour times, at the very least. He said the planning stage of the project is still under way, and any such information as closures should be available soon.The Highway 133/Highway 82 intersection is the main route into and out of Carbondale, although an alternate does exist. Garfield County Road 100 leads east from Main Street to the Catherine Store traffic light at Highway 82, a couple of miles upvalley from the Highway 133 intersection.The rest of the Highway 133 improvements project, Elsen said, remains an important part of what is known as the “2035 Long Range Plan,” which is a list of known projects stretching out over nearly three decades into the future.He said the current cost estimates are for about $24 million total to expand and spruce up the highway as it leads through town and on to Meadowood Drive at Carbondale’s southern edge.With the Highway 82 intersection and bridge as Phase I, he said, “given the traffic volumes, I would expect that the Meadowood Drive segment will be last,” although the staging for the project has not yet been done.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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