Main Street snarl to run through November
The block-long traffic snarl in front of the Pitkin County Courthouse not only will be around for a while but also caused the relocation of a frequently visited city department, officials said Wednesday.
The construction work has blocked off one of Main Street’s westbound lanes and yielded just two orange-cone-lined traffic lanes going in either direction in the block between Spring and Galena streets. The intersection of Main and Galena streets was closed Wednesday.
The construction represents the first stage in the building of both a new Pitkin County building and a new Aspen Police Department building next door to the east. That first stage, which began Sept. 6 and is expected to last until Nov. 20, involves moving electrical, water, telephone and cable utility lines that run both in front of and behind the courthouse, said Jon Peacock, Pitkin County manager.
“A lot of the utilities are going under exactly where we’ll be building,” Peacock said.
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The work also required cutting down several trees behind the courthouse that were located directly above the utilities that needed relocating, he said. It also forced the city’s Parking Department to change locations.
The Aspen Parking Department has been located next door to the county building in a ranch house built in the 1960s for the past eight years, said Mitch Osur, parking director. However, he said the city plans to tear down the house in the next three weeks and eventually replace it with an 18,000-plus-square-foot new police building and an eight-unit affordable-housing complex.
So the Parking Department moved out of its old digs Tuesday and into newly renovated facilities in the Rio Grande Building, located across from the Pitkin County Jail and behind the courthouse, Osur said. The building is known to some as the former Aspen Youth Center and others as the building where Taster’s Pizza is located, he said.
The department will likely be located in the Rio Grande Building for the next three to five years, Osur said. He said people who need to visit the Parking Department can park in the nearby city parking garage, where the first 20 minutes are free, or on the street near Rio Grande Park.
Pitkin County plans to completely gut its 17,000-square-foot building at 530 E. Main St. and redo it. It also plans to add a 24,000-square-foot addition to the back of the building and an 8,000-square-foot parking garage underneath. Ground will likely be broken for the construction phase of the $24.6 million project after Thanksgiving, Peacock said.
City and county staff members have been talking about coordinating the two projects behind the scenes for quite a while now to align the processes and cut down on the impact to the public, he said. Officials are aligning parking, aesthetics and access points, Peacock said, adding that the police station and the new Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office in the new addition will be connected.
“I think the two projects are coming together pretty well,” he said.
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