Highway 82 intersection of fatal crash near Aspen topic of transportation meeting
Pitkin County’s public works director will meet with state transportation officials today at the site of a fatal accident near Woody Creek less than two weeks ago to discuss safety improvement options.
The one thing that must happen as soon as possible is the replacement of a temporary stop sign at the intersection of Smith Way and Highway 82, Pitkin County’s Brian Pettet said at Thursday’s meeting of the Elected Officials Transportation Committee in Snowmass Village.
The previous permanent stop sign at the intersection featured a flashing light atop the sign, which also should be replaced, Pettet said.
Beyond that, all options are on the table, up to installing a traffic light at the intersection, he said. Elected officials on the committee from Pitkin County, Aspen and Snowmass Village will be consulted on any changes, though CDOT will want to study the intersection for any major changes, Pettet said.
Snowmass Town Councilman Bob Sirkus suggested installing a flashing amber light in the area on Highway 82 and a flashing red light facing Smith Way as a way to slow down traffic. He also suggested allowing only a right turn downvalley from Smith Way onto Highway 82 at the intersection and having a turnaround down valley for upvalley traffic.
Pitkin County Commissioner Steve Child characterized the straightaway section of Highway 82 after Brush Creek Road heading down valley toward Smith Way as “the beginning of a NASCAR race course.” Child advocated some kind of speed-control mitigation in the section.
Snowmass Town Councilman Tom Goode suggested lowering the speed limit in the section between Brush Creek and Smith Way from 55 mph to 45 mph.
NBA agent Dan Fegan was killed Feb. 25 when he was trying to drive across downvalley Highway 82 lanes from Smith Way to get to the upvalley lanes. Fegan’s rented SUV was hit by a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus, which was traveling 52 mph, according to the Colorado State Patrol. Fegan’s 5-year-old son and his nanny were injured in the collision; an update on their condition has not been released.
Pettet said he plans on talking about future safety measures today with CDOT officials, though CDOT responses could be muted for the time being because the agency still is fighting a ransomware virus that has paralyzed its networks. Data about the intersection are not available until the virus abates, Pettet said.
In other EOTC business Thursday, officials unanimously approved $40,000 to study the Owl Creek Road and Highway 82 intersection and specifically how to improve safety for pedestrians crossing the highway to Buttermilk Ski Area.
Opposition mainly from Snowmass Village elected officials at the last EOTC meeting killed an $80,000 version of the study.
Thursday’s discussion about the intersection veered in many directions, including suggestions about a pedestrian overpass, rejiggering the intersection and an area bike trail and even an idea to build an underpass for cars instead of pedestrians.
Pettet previously reported that constructing a pedestrian underpass at the intersection would be extremely costly because of buried utilities and topography.
Aspen City Councilman Adam Frisch said he didn’t like “half studies” and suggested funding the original $80,000 study. But Sirkus and Goode said they weren’t sure they wanted to approve that much for the study.
Finally, city of Aspen Transportation Director John Krueger said the $40,000 could provide a baseline of information and identify ideas elected officials want to pursue and might want to discard.
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Highway 82 is closed eastbound for a second time Tuesday morning east of Aspen because of a semi-truck experiencing “mechanical issues” trying to go up Independence Pass.