Entrance to Red Mountain has motorists idling to speak out
ASPEN Forget the Entrance to Aspen: Residents of one of Pitkin County’s wealthiest areas are tired of sitting in their idling vehicles on the way home. After months of long waits in alternating one-lane traffic because of construction on Red Mountain Road, area residents had a chance to sound off Thursday at a special meeting in Aspen. Officials assured residents that the worst part of the project – and the long waits it has created – is almost over.”I’d like to know why it’s taking that long,” asked Bill Johnson, who lives near the construction site and was among some 15 residents in attendance. “I can’t figure out why it takes six months to do 1,000 foot of road.”Other motorists said they have waited as long as 30 minutes to pass up or down the steep slope where Aspen Earthmoving crews have been performing a $3.1 million road and utilities upgrade. The project began in April on a road that averages more than 3,000 vehicles a day, according to county officials. The traffic problem came to a head July 12, when a high volume of traffic, coupled with an ambulance call, caused full gridlock for more than 30 minutes, prompting county officials to call the meeting.”There’s nobody watching the store,” said one resident who wished to remain anonymous, adding that crews are doing a bad job of managing the traffic. County engineer G.R. Fielding asked for residents’ patience for just a few more weeks while the steepest section of road, where there is only a narrow area for work crews to maneuver, is completed.”We’re trying to come up with a better traffic control pattern,” he said.The contract for the project called for delays of no more than 10 minutes, but Fielding gave Aspen Earthmoving an extension to 15 minutes because of the difficulty of the project, he said.Aspen Earthmoving owner Rick Stevens said, “We weren’t excited about this in the first place.”Stevens said the road was crumbling and bubbling with underground springs.”This is the worst piece of road … the steepest, wettest, muckiest,” he said. And, despite major snags like finding a gas line that forced workers to divert a major drainage ditch, Stevens said the work is on schedule and that the worst of the delays are over.”We took this on knowing we were going to run into things like this,” Stevens said.A few in attendance, however, congratulated the crews on a job well done and said the inconvenience will mean a wider, safer road.”The lower section’s impact is 90 percent over,” Stevens said, encouraging residents to limit the number of vehicle trips until the project is complete.After the lower section is finished in coming weeks, the current bottleneck will open, according to Aspen Earthmoving project manager Jennifer Belknap.And from August crews will concentrate on work on a water main running along Red Mountain Road between Reds Road and Hunter Creek Road, Belknap said.If members of the Red Mountain Ranch Homeowners Association approve a traffic diversion through the area, the water main work would require no traffic stops, Stevens said.Crews will do a final concrete overlay in September that will require more one-lane alternating traffic and some delays, Belknap said, but the project will be complete by the end of September – some three weeks ahead of schedule.Others at Thursdays meeting expressed concern about the steep grade along Willoughby Way at the Red Mountain Road intersection at the bottom of the current construction zone.Pitkin County public works director Brian Pettet said the county commissioners would consider a budget request to decrease the grade along the stretch.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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