Entrance to Aspen resumes construction Tuesday; delays expected to be worse than in spring
September 1, 2018
After almost a three-month hiatus, construction on the Castle Creek Bridge and the entrance to Aspen will resume Tuesday, and city officials are warning commuters they will be facing delays that could be even longer than in the spring.
When the $4.6 million project began in April and ran through mid-June, traffic backups into and out of the city appeared tolerable enough for many motorists to not find alternative modes of transit.
"This is going to be different," said City Engineer Trish Aragon. "There's going to be significant delays coming into town."
Project manager Hailey Guglielmo said that's because the spring offseason is less busy than the fall.
"Aspen has higher volumes of vehicle trips in September than in April," she said. "We urge motorists to consider all the options — bus, bike, walk, carpool, traveling outside of peak times, combining trips — before jumping in the car."
Detour routes into and out of town will remain in effect until Oct. 31, which is when the project is expected to end.
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From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and some Saturdays, outbound traffic will use Fifth Street to Smuggler to Power Plant Road. Inbound vehicles will go over the bridge, head straight onto Hallam Street, turn on Sixth Street and then onto Main.
Inbound and outbound buses will have priority and will be detoured to Hallam Street and over the bridge. Large trucks that cannot negotiate down the steep, winding Power Plant Road also will use Hallam Street over the bridge.
Inbound traffic will be stopped to accommodate buses and trucks over the one lane open on the bridge.
The work this past spring caused backups coming from the Aspen public school campus, resulting in traffic getting snarled at the roundabout in about every direction.
Drawing from that experience, the city will place flaggers at the roundabout to hold inbound vehicles in the morning and afternoon to allow school traffic to flush out of Maroon Creek Road.
The project was initiated by the city and is aimed at improving the pedestrian experience and the Hallam Street corridor with expanded sidewalks, new bus shelters and crosswalks.
Crews stopped construction June 12 to accommodate the busy summer season and the traffic that comes with it.
The project was set to resume Aug. 20 but favorable weather this past spring allowed crews to get more done, thus shortening the construction schedule.
"Weather definitely helped," said Ben West, a project manager for Gould Construction, which is the contractor on the project. "We also had a well-planned and executed operation with all parties involved working closely together toward the goal of finishing early."
West said the project is at or near budget and he is confident it will be completed on time — as long as the weather cooperates.
"We will need a second well-orchestrated effort to complete the project by Oct. 31 but we're in a good position since we finished the majority of the road construction this spring," he said. "Weather will certainly be a concern as fall sets in and winter approaches and it will require added effort to protect the new concrete from the cold temperatures. We will also have to schedule the paving dates to coincide with favorable weather."
During the next phase of the project, crews will finish bus and trail improvements, including the width extension of the north bridge sidewalk, a railing separating the sidewalk from the roadway and new ADA accessible bus shelters.
"It's just as labor intensive, it's just as much work," as what was done in the spring, Aragon noted.
To date, crews have completed underground infrastructure improvements, raised the crossings at Seventh and Eighth streets and replaced much of the roadway.
"We're already at a point where you can see the vision becoming reality," Aragon said. "Even now there is a distinct change with the open feel of the corridor — it's a much more pleasant experience."
Aspen City Council last week approved funding for a concrete roadway at the Seventh and Main streets intersection. It will be similar in size to the one that was done at Seventh and Hallam streets. Both are considered the S-curves at the entrance to town.
Concrete is superior to asphalt because it can last 20 years before maintenance is required, according to city officials. Asphalt, which is prone to potholes forming, is typically maintained every three to four years.
Because of that work, which will be in front of the Hickory House restaurant, nighttime and weekend traffic also will have detours.
Inbound traffic will use Sixth Street to Main Street; outbound traffic will use Fifth Street to Hallam Street and out on Highway 82.
Because of the additional work being done at the eastern S-curve and acknowledging Hickory House's business was hit hard due to construction in the spring, the city is taking extra steps to let the public know the restaurant is open for business.
David Chan, general manager at the Hickory House, said city officials have committed to placing banners and digital messaging boards west of the bridge and at Fourth Street.
"They've been super-helpful," he said.
Aragon said parking in front of the restaurant on Main Street and in the alley behind it will be accessible to customers.
Motorists will have to tell flaggers at Fifth Street they are headed to the restaurant and they will be allowed to continue traveling down Main Street, she added.
Chan said he hopes the extra effort helps his bottom line.
"It does affect business but there's not a lot you can do," he said.
The city of Aspen funded two additional buses between the Brush Creek Intercept Lot and Rubey Park to help reduce wait times and accommodate additional riders during peak travel times.
"The additional RFTA buses during the morning and afternoon rushes are intended to boost the incentive to park and ride instead of waiting in traffic," City Transportation Director John Krueger said. "Coming into town, the bus has a dedicated lane from the airport to the roundabout, meaning you'll likely be able to bypass much of the morning queue."
Buttermilk is another park-and-ride location. In July, the city and the open space department installed 20 bike lockers in the Buttermilk parking lot to help commuters who take the bus or drive up valley to switch to bikes for the last few miles of their commute. They are available through Nov. 15 for a $25 rental fee.
In town, there are four free bus and shuttle routes connecting popular destinations in the city and the Downtowner shuttle with free door-to-door service in the core.
WE-Cycle is another option designed for short trips. Currently 20 stations are located throughout the city. Two have been installed specifically in response to the bridge project —at the bus stop near the Aspen Recreation Center and the roundabout. The first 30 minutes of each WE-cycle ride is free in Aspen with time resetting with each ride. It costs 50 cents per additional minute.
The city also offers a free carpool matching service through commuterconnect.net. Carpools of two or more adults may pick up a daily carpool permit at the airport parking information kiosk, allowing for free parking in designated carpool or residential spaces in Aspen.
The bus stop that was at Eighth Street has been moved to Fourth and Main streets.
The next community meeting for the project is scheduled for Sept. 22 at 4 p.m. in the basement of City Hall.
Guglielmo said about 10 people came to the last meeting held Aug. 22, which was the best turnout the city has seen thus far.
People can sign up for project news and updates by visiting the project website, castlecreek bridge.com or by contacting the project information team via call or text at 970-618-5379 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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