Harbour and Sneaky Lane residents express their concerns about Entrance to Aspen plans | AspenTimes.com

Harbour and Sneaky Lane residents express their concerns about Entrance to Aspen plans

Community sessions still being held to brief the public on the new Castle Creek Bridge

Deputy City Engineer Pete Rice (left), City Engineer Trish Aragon, (far right), and Senior Project Manager Jenn Ooton discuss the Preferred Alternative for the Entrance to Aspen at the Pumphouse community meeting Wednesday evening.
Julie Bielenberg/The Aspen Times

Less than two weeks before the Aspen City Council will discuss the Castle Creek Bridge Public Education Outreach summary and next steps, homeowners from Harbour and Sneaky lanes met with city staff about the Preferred Alternative for the Entrance to Aspen.

This meeting with City Engineer Trish Aragon, Deputy City Engineer Pete Rice, and Senior Project Manager Jenn Ooton was part of a community-awareness campaign. Feedback from Wednesday’s session, along with 25 other small group meetings over 11 weeks, will be presented Feb. 13 to the City Council.

The Colorado Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Commission are looking to Aspen for support before a new Castle Creek Bridge is constructed. This feedback will be essential to the next phase of planning, officials said.

The current bridge is nearing the end of its lifespan. Built in 1961 with an estimated lifespan of 75 years, which expires in 2036, it was rated “fair” by CDOT in 2022 (50.3 out of 100). If the bridge falls below a scored of 50, CDOT could put weight limits on vehicles crossing the bridge for safety reasons.

Tom Hirsch, 27-year-resident of Sneaky Lane, said, “I have not kept up with this. I want to get caught up. I want to understand the impact. I have a neutral stance and want to learn, be informed, so that I can make a proper decision on what should occur. Where is the city in the process?”

“This is the information and awareness phase of the project,” Aragon said. “City Council recognized that it has been some time since the Preferred Alternative was discussed. We have conducted dozens of open houses, site tours, one-on-one, small and large group presentations. But no decisions have been made.”

“I think what is interesting in the case of this neighborhood is how the Preferred Alternative lessens the traffic load on Power Plant Road, which directly impacts these two streets,” Rice said. “We are looking at doing a study in 2023 that will confirm that data.”

“How do I get to the bus? And is there going to be a new 8th Street bus stop? Would I have to walk an extra block then to get the BRT?” asked said Shannon McHugh, a six-year Harbour Lane resident. “Now I’m crossing two major roadways to get to the bus. This is concerning and more dangerous.”

“I don’t get to vote for City Council; I don’t vote in city elections. The way in which the city zoning lies, I’m not in the voting district,” McHugh said. “This directly impacts me as a Harbour Lane resident, and yet, I have no vote. I need to understand will be mandated of me.”

“Down the road,” said Rice, “we will have to figure it out, but that is possible. Yes, you will be crossing Cemetery Lane.”

“And would there be eminent domain for some of the properties with the alternative entrance?” asked McHugh.

“Yes, there would be,” Aragon replied.

Repairing the bridge would directly impact Harbour and Sneaky lanes.

“During any phase of the project, in any of your projections,” Hirsch said, “would we ever be cut off from our homes? I am just thinking of medical emergencies.”

Homeowners would always have access to their homes and road, the officials said.

“For medical emergencies and urgent access, there will always be a way in and out of the streets,” Rice said. “For two years, a new bridge will have great impact on your road. However, we have this planned out. For example, this summer when we had the bridge construction, we had flaggers on each side of the bridge and ambulances waiting on each side. Therefore, if a call came in from dispatch, the flaggers could immediately stop traffic and allow personnel through. We have these intricate plans for numerous scenarios.”

“I understand the purpose of this meeting is to understand the process. This is just information,” said Kirk Gregory, a 36-year Harbor Lane resident. “There aren’t opinions from the city being shared, rather the changes that might occur.”

There is no magical solution where no one would be impacted, the city officials said. And the City Council still hasn’t determined when a vote on the Preferred Alternative would occur.