Improved pedestrian crossing at Aspen airport advances
December 6, 2010
ASPEN – A $1.5 million pedestrian crossing over or under Highway 82 near the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport was among seven projects recommended for funding by the Intermountain Regional Transportation Planning Commission, which met Thursday in Eagle.
Pitkin County commissioners agreed last week to spend $250,000 on preconstruction work for either an underpass or overpass at the location, with the goal of separating pedestrians from what some county officials contend is a dangerous spot to cross the highway.
The local allocation will come from sales tax proceeds dedicated to transit and controlled jointly by the city of Aspen, town of Snowmass Village and the county. Consultants will study the best spot to put the crossing, and complete design and engineering work so the project is ready to build should state transportation funds become available, said G.R. Fielding, county engineer.
It’s possible the crossing will be aligned to connect bus stops on either side of the highway or be located at the nearby Highway 82 intersection that serves both the airport and the Aspen Business Center. It may make sense to put the crossing at the bus stop locations on either side of the highway, as that’s where many pedestrians want to cross, Fielding said.
Pedestrians have a signal light to cross at the intersection, but some commissioners feel the crossing is dangerous, nonetheless, given the multiple lanes and turning traffic at the busy spot.
After a pedestrian was hurt in an accident there earlier this year, the Colorado Department of Transportation added a streetlight and allotted more time for pedestrians to cross the highway, according to Fielding.
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“I wouldn’t say we’ve addressed the safety issue by adding a streetlight,” Commissioner Michael Owsley said.
“It’s as dangerous an intersection as you’re going to find,” said Commissioner George Newman, who said he used to cross it regularly as a pedestrian.
Nearby residents on the east side of Highway 82 would rather drive into Aspen than walk across the highway, or have their kids cross the highway, to catch a bus into town, according to Commissioner Patti Clapper.
But Commissioner Jack Hatfield expressed doubt about the need for a separated pedestrian crossing, particularly since there has been discussion about reconfiguring that stretch of the highway and eliminating the existing intersection that serves the airport and business center.
The spot is expected to remain a key crossing point, regardless of what happens to the intersection, countered Brian Pettet, director of public works. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority plans to rebuild the bus stops there as elevated platforms. The spot will be a major stop for RFTA’s planned Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, system, he noted.
Both RFTA and the airport are interested in being involved in planning for a new pedestrian crossing, according to Pettet. The airport envisions a future parking structure near the bus stop on the west side of the highway.
An improved experience for individuals riding a bus to the airport to catch a plane, or landing at the airport and transferring to a bus, is among the goals for RFTA and the airport, he said.
The regional planning commission, which recommends how state funds should be spent in Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield and Lake counties, reviewed 16 projects, including 14 that were seeking a funding recommendation. Seven projects were chosen for some level of funding, including the pedestrian crossing, according to Pettet.
The recommendations will go to CDOT, which will decide how to allocate $11.5 million over the next six years to the recommended projects, he said.
Pitkin County also presented the extension of the Crystal Trail to Redstone, a $9.52 million project, to the commission, but did not ask for a funding recommendation. The goal was simply to get it on the list and on the commission’s radar, Pettet said.
Also recommended for funding within the Roaring Fork Valley was $208,000 for engineering and design of a levy at the upper Basalt bypass, where construction of the Highway 82 bridge over the Roaring Fork River has created potential flooding issues.
A $1.1 million project to widen Highway 133 between Cowan Drive and Main Street in Carbondale also won a recommendation from the regional group, Pettet said.
Other recommended projects included: $5 million for the Interstate 70 interchange at Eagle, $3 million for Highway 13 north of Rifle, $500,000 for I-70 spur road improvements at Edwards and $200,000 for a feasibility study for a pedestrian underpass in Vail.