Who should own Aspen’s Main Street? The city or CDOT? | AspenTimes.com

Who should own Aspen’s Main Street? The city or CDOT?

The city is currently in discussions with the Colorado Department of Transportation to try to improve Main Street.
Rick Carroll/The Aspen Times

Aspen officials are pumping the brakes on the idea of the city taking over Main Street from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

City Engineer Trish Aragon earlier this year began investigating the process of “devolution”, which involves CDOT paying the local government an initial amount to assume responsibility of a roadway. Then the state agency is absolved of any maintenance in the future.

Aragon met with CDOT officials in July to see what the process would take and what the payment figure from the state would be. But she said the numbers weren’t accurate and more needed to be fleshed out.

Instead, the direction Aragon has received from the City Manager’s Office is to work with CDOT so it resurfaces all the intersections at Main Street with concrete, which lasts longer than asphalt and isn’t prone to potholes.

“We want a full-service treatment,” Aragon said, adding that CDOT officials said the agency doesn’t have enough money for that kind of treatment.

The city receives $249,000 a year from CDOT for projects on Main Street, which is a state highway in the eyes of the agency.

The city would have received an additional $295,000 a year with the passage of Proposition 110 Tuesday night. The ballot question asked voters approve a 0.62 percent sales tax for 20 years and is earmarked for transportation fixes all over the state. Voters rejected that proposition.

As a comparison, Aragon said the town of Bonanza, Colorado, population 18, would have received $37 a year if Proposition 110 had passed.

Pete Rice, a senior project manager with the city’s engineering department, said the city has mapped out each area where it would like a concrete roadway.

He said city engineers and CDOT officials will plan a field trip in the future to discuss concrete plans.

Aspen City Council in August approved $678,000 in a supplemental request from the engineering department to pour concrete at the S-curve in front of the Hickory House as part of the Castle Creek Bridge/Hallam Corridor project.

The impetus for pursuing devolution was the city having control over the stoplights so that they favor pedestrians over vehicular traffic.

“Right now, it’s pedestrian-safe, which is much different than pedestrian-friendly,” Aragon said.

For years, the city has been trying to make Main Street more pedestrian-friendly by putting in flashing lights at crosswalks and making other improvements. Working with CDOT on some of those initiatives — like changing the frequency of the stoplights — is sometimes a challenge.

But through the devolution talks, CDOT has agreed to let Aspen be the masters of their domain when it comes to the stoplights.

“They are on board with us taking over the pedestrian timing,” Aragon said. “We could take control next year, next summer.”

Having control over that and improving the surface of the roadway may be enough so that devolution isn’t necessary.

“We are not in a place yet … the city has reservations of taking over Main Street,” Aragon said. “We just want a nice surface to drive on.”


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