Aspen’s Castle Creek bridge project opening day creates traffic delays

The first day of the Castle Creek Bridge construction saw traffic backed up to the airport in the morning and Paepcke Park during the afternoon commute out of Aspen, according to city officials.

The Monday morning commute for motorists traveling inbound hovered around 18 minutes from the Intercept Lot at around 11 a.m., according to Pete Rice, the city’s senior project manager. Cars were backed up to the airport as construction crews held incoming traffic in order to get buses and large trucks over the bridge.

“I think the first day, with major detours, it went pretty well,” Rice said, estimating that it took an extra 15 minutes traveling out of town in the afternoon.

John Krueger, the city’s transportation director, estimates that on average between 3,000 and 4,000 vehicles travel into town from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 4,000 to 5,000 between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. outbound.

Some buses were delayed in the morning, namely on the Castle/Maroon route, which serves the hospital, the Castle Ridge complex and Aspen Highlands, said Kent Blackmer, co-director of operations for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

And there were further hiccups Monday when some drivers didn’t use the dedicated bus lanes on the north side of Main Street, which are typically set aside for afternoon use only. Bus drivers instead merged in with vehicles on Main Street, causing traffic backup.

“This plan is not going to be perfect and we will make any changes as they come,” said Justin Forman, a city senior project manager.

Some motorists tried sneaking out by following local traffic; residents who live in the area of the bridge are waived through the S-curves.

“People were following the buses over the bridge and using alleys to skip the detours,” Rice said.

During the monthslong project, the bridge is reduced to one lane, with inbound traffic coming over it, and outbound vehicles diverted through the West End neighborhood and onto Power Plant Road.

“There was a steady stream down Power Plant Road,” Forman said of Monday’s traffic. “They seemed to be moving on through.”

The nearly $5 million project is an overhaul of the Hallam Street corridor, with an 8-foot-wide sidewalk on north side of the bridge and new intersections and bus stops at Seventh and Eighth streets.

The project runs in phases, with work going to June 11. Work stops during the busy summer season and resumes Aug. 12 through October.

Crews will be working on the bridge from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, with some Saturdays.

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