Highway 82 underpass a go for $5.4 million
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – A $5.4 million Highway 82 pedestrian underpass near the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport will be constructed this year, thanks to an extra $1 million in funding put forward Thursday by a consortium of upvalley governments.
The Elected Officials Transportation Committee, made up of elected representatives from the town of Snowmass Village, the city of Aspen and Pitkin County, voted to kick in an additional $1.02 million from transit money the committee controls to make the project happen. The county will put that much more in from its own capital-projects fund, as well, after the lowest bid for the project came in about $2 million higher than the most recent estimate.
The expenditure received the toughest scrutiny from Snowmass Village officials who questioned whether it was worth spending $5.4 million on an underpass when there’s no guarantee that pedestrians will use it to cross the busy highway safely.
“It’s not a guaranteed solution,” Aspen Councilman Steve Skadron agreed.
Snowmass Mayor Bill Boineau also voiced concern about the public’s perception about government spending.
“If I wasn’t sitting at this table, I would be saying, ‘Is the government spending too much money on these projects?'” he said.
The underpass will be installed to connect new Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus stops on either side of the highway between the Aspen Business Center and the airport, and the at-grade pedestrian crossing at a nearby intersection will be eliminated.
The highway sees an average of 22,000 vehicles a day in the area, and pedestrian safety has long been identified as an issue. A count on one day last year showed 250 people crossing in the area, including 79 people (32 percent) who chose to dash across the highway between the bus stops rather than walking to the intersection.
The intersection was the site of a pedestrian fatality in recent years.
The Transportation Committee, which controls the proceeds of a sales tax devoted to transit, has about $12 million in accumulated money. It is earmarked for a new transit center in Snowmass Village and improvements to the Entrance to Aspen, but the sum includes $3 million for unspecified capital improvements. The underpass will use more of that sum than initially anticipated, but the project remains financially doable, Commissioner George Newman said.
“Here’s an opportunity to use the dollars for what has been recognized as a need in this community,” he said.
All three elected bodies voted individually to approve the expenditure, with Snowmass Councilman Jason Haber dissenting in the Town Council’s vote.
Before casting his “yes” vote, Boineau made a point of noting Snowmass’ desire to see county commissioners approve a route between Aspen and Snowmass for this summer’s USA Pro Challenge bike race. That topic is before commissioners next week.
“I’ll put that on the table right now,” Boineau said.
In all, the Transportation Committee will put up roughly $2 million for the underpass, while the county will provide $1.5 million and the Colorado Department of Transportation will spend $1.5 million.
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