Is it a green light for new stoplight? | AspenTimes.com

Is it a green light for new stoplight?

Charles Agar

Highway 82 might soon have another stoplight.

Colorado Department of Transportation officials presented plans for improv­ing the intersection of Smith Way and Highway 82 near Woody Creek to county commissioners Tuesday. They will field public comment on the pro­posals today at an open house at the Pitkin County Library.

The decision stems from a 2001 safety study that showed too many danger­ous collisions at the inter­section. CDOT installed warning signs, flashers, a deceleration lane and increased police enforce­ment to no avail. Between 2001 and 2003, there were 25 accidents at the intersec­tion; one broadside resulted in four fatalities.

With funding from a federal hazard elimination grant, CDOT commis­sioned an intersection improvement feasibility study. On Tuesday, Joseph L. Henderson of Short Elliot Hendrickson Inc. proposed three alternatives to county commissioners:

– With a price tag of $ 1.65 million, the first and simplest plan would add traffic lights in four direc­tions and an 8-foot shoulder to the narrow median between east- and west­bound lanes of Highway 82. There would also be space for a pedestrian crossing.

– The second and third plans, costing $1.9 million and $2.2 million, respectively, involve left-turn ramps as well as similar traffic lights and widening the median.

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Henderson’s firm did explore the possibility of a two- lane roundabout at the intersection, but the $3.64 million price tag was a bit hefty.

Officials are not certain whether the new intersection will lead to a lower speed limit along Highway 82 above Woody Creek.

Commissioners voiced their support for the first alternative ” adding traffic lights and a wider median ” and said that safety, not cost, was the primary issue. Commissioners agreed the more complex and expensive options were not worth the price.

Dorothea Farris said she supports the recommenda­tion but added that CDOT should explore other solu­tions to valleywide transportation problems.

“The Colorado Department of Transportation is act­ing like the Department of Highways,” she said. Farris decried building and development codes that call for the protection of the county’s rural character while CDOT builds and expands local roadways. She hopes officials will look at other possibilities, such as rail.

Sean Yeates, a CDOT traffic engineer, said fixing the intersection is like “changing a joint in a pipe system.” He said CDOT is looking for input and would like to see a multiuse transit system along the Highway 82 cor­ridor but there is a lot of resistance in communities adjoining the proposed route.

CDOT officials hope to solicit bids for improve­ments to the Smith Way- Highway 82 intersection by April and start construction by May or June. They have received $1.7 million in federal funding for the project.

CDOT representatives will be at the Pitkin County Library, 120 N. Mill St. in Aspen, from 4-7 p.m. for a public open house to discuss options and hear public opinion.

“If somebody comes up with something better, we’d love to hear about,” Henderson said.

Charles Agar’s e-mail is cagar@aspentimes.com

The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.

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