City of Aspen warns motorists of major delays over bridge beginning April 2
March 21, 2018
Officials are gearing up for what will be one of the most significant changes to the Entrance to Aspen in decades. It also is the most impactful project that motorists will deal with in the coming weeks.
"This is a big deal," Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron said to his fellow council members earlier this month. "It's our very own Grand Avenue Bridge project."
It's a nearly $5 million project that's aimed at improving the Hallam Street corridor with an expanded sidewalk for pedestrians and bicyclists over the bridge. There also will be new intersections and bus stops at Seventh and Eighth streets.
City Engineer Trish Aragon has said that the corridor is one of the most dangerous areas in the city. These improvements will resolve how cars interact with pedestrians and bicyclists.
"The corridor will function completely differently," said Bryana Starbuck, the project's public information officer.
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The bridge will be reduced to one lane beginning April 2, when outbound traffic will be redirected through the West End neighborhood and down Power Plant Road.
Inbound traffic will go over the bridge and continue on Hallam Street through the S-curves, although there will be periodic holds to let RTFA buses through. All buses, emergency vehicles and large trucks that cannot negotiate Power Plant Road will travel over the bridge throughout the project, which has four phases and will last through October.
"Phase 0" runs from April 2 to 6, and the detours and traffic delays will occur from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Regular traffic patterns resume on nights and weekends, Starbuck said. She added that depending on weather and other unforeseen issues, some work might occur on Saturdays.
Phase 1 runs from April 9 to May 6 when traffic patterns in and out of town become a bit more complex: Outbound traffic — cars traveling west — will turn right onto Fifth Street from Main Street and then left on Hallam. Inbound traffic will avoid the S-curves and instead travel straight onto Hallam Street, where it is currently closed off to cars with bollards.
Both lanes on the bridge will be open during this phase, while work is done to the road south of the S-curves. This section will be closed to traffic day and night, seven days a week. The only exception will be for residents who live in that area, and business owners and employees who work there.
Flaggers will be stationed along the detour routes, guiding motorists in and out of town during all four phases of the project.
Bust through on buses
Throughout the duration of the project, bus stops at Eighth Street will be relocated to Fourth and Main streets, where there is a flashing light and a crosswalk.
Starbuck said bus service from Rubey Park to the Brush Creek intercept lot will be increased beginning May 1. Two additional buses will be added during morning rush hour and evening peak times.
RFTA is adding a BRT stop at the kiss-and-ride near the roundabout, as well as on the north side bus stop.
Starbuck said commuters ought to do whatever they can to get out of their cars because there will be major delays. That means carpool, condense errands and take mass transit.
"It will be faster getting out of town on the bus," Starbuck said, adding that increased service will remain as long as people take advantage of it. "Use it or lose it."
Phase 2 begins May 7 and runs through June 11. No work will be done during the peak summer season — from June 12 to Aug. 12. Construction resumes Aug. 13 until the project ends sometime in October.
During the city's Facebook Live session last week, Debbie Braun, president of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, asked why the project is occurring when the ski areas are still operating.
She told The Aspen Times on Wednesday that her agency, along with other tourism outlets and lodging properties, are working diligently to boost occupancy numbers to finish the season strong. She also noted that the end of August and September are peak times for leaf-peepers.
"That's high season for our drive market so this is going to be very impactful in the fall," she said, noting that she understands it's difficult to do construction projects because offseasons are getting shorter. "We all have to be OK with it."
Braun said it's a good call to action for the city to emphasize that employers should allow flexibility in their employees' work schedules to avoid peak travel times and to let them work from home when possible.
"I think they are trying for the public outreach," she said. "It's going to be great when it's done. … In the end we are going to be happy."
Starbuck said she and the city have had two sessions with neighbors of the project and businesses. Additionally, a community open house was held March 8, but it was sparsely attended. Roughly 1,000 mailers were sent to residents and business owners throughout town. City officials also went door to door to talk with people about the impacts, and many email blasts have gone out.
Starbuck said the in-person meetings have not been that well-attended but people are responding to the digital outreach. Nearly 400 people viewed the city's Facebook Live event.
Starbuck stressed that people who have concerns or questions should email email@example.com, or call or text the hotline at 970-618-5379.
"We are looking for as many opportunities as possible" to accommodate people, she said. "We can't find solutions if we don't know what the problems are."
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