Gas line project to remain in McLain Flats |

Gas line project to remain in McLain Flats

A truck drives up McLain Flats in April. Black Hills wants to install 2½ miles of 6-inch gas line under and along McLain Flats Road from the triangle intersection of Smith Way, McLain Flats and Upper River Road in Woody Creek to Trentaz Drive.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times file

The installation of a new gas line into Aspen will remain within the McLain Flats roadway this summer after efforts to realign it using the Rio Grande Trail became too complicated and time-consuming, officials said Tuesday.

“Let’s just get it done,” Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper said. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience but sometimes these things have to happen.”

Black Hills Energy is in the final stages of installing a backup gas line into Aspen, which has been in the works since 2005. The final stage of the project requires constructing the line from the “Y” intersection of Smith Way, Upper River Road and McLain Flats Road in Woody Creek to Trentaz Drive on McLain Flats.

The gas line will then hook up with an already constructed section from there that leads to Cemetery Lane and into Aspen.

The company has the right under Colorado law to use the road right-of-way to build the gas line, and Pitkin County officials worked out a plan to get it done with as minimal traffic impacts as possible. However, members of the Woody Creek Caucus asked commissioners to consider running the line along the Rio Grande Trail and back up to McLain Flats to avoid some of the expected traffic impacts in the “Y” intersection area.

That, however, would require altering a conservation easement that forbids utilities, closing the Rio Grande Trail for six weeks during the summer season and figuring out how to fit a new gas transfer station into the Rio Grande right of way, said Gary Tennenbaum, county Open Space and Trails director, and G.R. Fielding, county engineer.

Negotiating a new conservation easement is time-consuming, Tennenbaum said. In addition, Black Hills Energy would have to design the route and the transfer station, which would take time, he said.

Black Hills wants to finish the project this summer, Fielding said.

“I’m in favor of your recommendation of keeping (the gas line) in the road,” Commissioner Steve Child said. “It seems to be the logical way to do it at this point.”’

Commissioner George Newman said he didn’t like the idea of closing the popular Rio Grande Trail, and pointed out that the traffic impacts have not been as bad as predicted so far.

Black Hills has begun the project, and the county has only received one complaint about traffic impacts, Fielding said.

The gas line project is expected to last all summer and into October. The traffic control plan doesn’t begin until after 9 a.m. to avoid morning rush hour impacts, while work generally runs until 7 p.m.