Housing near Aspen airport will require new traffic light on Highway 82
City of Aspen’s Lumberyard affordable housing project will need mitigation, including bus service and traffic management
The city of Aspen’s Lumberyard affordable housing project will require a new traffic light at the intersection of Highway 82 and the entrance to the project, which is about 200 yards away from another signaled intersection at the Airport Business Center.
That is the finding of a transportation impact analysis conducted by consultant Fehr & Peers, which acknowledges there a significant impact to the level of service at the intersection, and the signal serves as mitigation.
The Aspen Lumberyard driveway is an existing private access from Highway 82 to the existing Builders FirstSource and Mountain Rescue Aspen.
Aspen City Council spent 3½ hours during Monday’s work session listening to details about the project and initially agreeing to a 100% schematic design of 277 units.
“I am supportive of the direction we are going,” Mayor Torre said. “The conversations that I have around this are difficult. … Large scale development like this, the impacts that go along with it are counter to a lot of what I do as a person and as a being, but I recognize that our housing crisis, our community crisis and our workforce crisis are enough for me to support this project going forward even with the challenges and impacts it may bring.”
While the city proposes extensive mitigation to reduce trip generation, the traffic analysis conducted by Fehr & Peers presents a worst-case scenario for project trip generation.
“In the near term, right after people move from downvalley housing to the Aspen Lumberyard, the Aspen Lumberyard project will add approximately 50 vehicle trips to the transportation system,” the report reads. “This will result in travel times on (Highway) 82 increasing by about a minute during rush hour. By 2025 and 2045, regional traffic growth will cause traffic congestion and delays on (Highway) 82 to increase with or without the project.
“With the addition of project traffic, peak hour travel times on Highway 82 will increase by two to four minutes with the addition of unmitigated project trips.”
The city aims to reduce the number of vehicle trips generated by the project by operating dedicated bus service to and from the Aspen Lumberyard, by buying additional bus service, or providing services to better connect the airport bus stops to the project.
The city also proposes to provide Aspen Lumberyard residents with bus passes and bike share memberships.
According to a survey of possible Aspen Lumberyard residents, roughly half of them will relocate from downvalley housing. The other half will relocate from housing in Aspen.
Fehr & Peers assumed that new Aspen-area employees do not move into downvalley housing vacated by incoming Aspen Lumberyard residents. To account for that, Fehr & Peers reduced traffic volumes from and to downvalley by a magnitude of half of the project’s trip generation.
However, the project still results in significant impacts, and several measures are being contemplated to mitigate 21 net trips of the 99 peak hour trips generated.
Fehr & Peers studied eight intersections in the area as part of its analysis.
At Highway 82 near the Lumberyard site, Fehrs & Peers counted approximately 19,000 vehicles per day on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20.
At Highway 82 north of Snowmass Creek Road, the location of a Colorado Department of Transportation continuous count station, the consultant counted roughly 23,100 vehicles per day on Jan. 13, 2022.
There are seven transit options proposed in the transportation impact analysis, and whatever is chosen, the costs of that bus service should be baked into the cost of the overall project, which is now estimated to cost $400 million, said Councilwoman Rachel Richards.
“I think that the cost of the buses, to service this, should be added to the project costs from the beginning so that we’re not looking later to say, ‘How do we finance $2 million buses?’ or something like that,” she said. “It is as much infrastructure in my mind as stormwater runoff.”
City staff has reviewed the transportation impact analysis and provided feedback to the consultant, and a final report will be delivered to council next month.
The Buddy Program rang in the holiday spirit with their annual Gingerbread House Workshops in Aspen and Carbondale.