No one wants to foot bill for critical light | AspenTimes.com
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No one wants to foot bill for critical light

A stoplight is needed at the intersection of Highway 82 and lower Willits Lane, agree state and local governments, but no one wants to foot the estimated $250,000 bill.

The Colorado Department of Transportation undertook a traffic volume study last month that confirmed the stoplight is warranted, according to Bob Gish, Basalt’s public services manager.

He was surprised by the result because so many drivers exiting onto the highway will avoid that intersection and take a frontage road down to the signaled El Jebel intersection.

“But there’s no question about it – that intersection warrants it,” he said. “It’s warranted now. Can you imagine what’s going to happen when we see more major development?”

Basalt Town Council members have pushed their staff to lobby CDOT for a stoplight there. The intersection is busy because of traffic heading into and departing City Market and surrounding businesses. The Basalt fire chief has labeled it one of the most dangerous in the midvalley.

The development of the massive Willits residential and commercial project has also increased traffic. And it is because of Willits that CDOT says the town of Basalt should raise the funds for the stoplight.

“It’s town-approved, growth-generated traffic so they’re saying the town must pay,” said Gish. CDOT officials have told him they don’t have funds available to install that light, he said.

CDOT officials couldn’t be reached for comment after the Basalt Town Council’s discussion last night. However, it seems obvious they look at the town’s approval of the Willits project as the reason Basalt should pay for the light.

Basalt approved nearly 500 residential units and roughly 250,000 square feet of commercial space at Willits in May 2001. The town exacted a fee from the developers to make improvements to Willits Lane. Nothing was required in anticipation of a stoplight at Highway 82 and lower Willits Lane.

But town officials contended last night that CDOT should have exacted funds from the Willits developers when they granted what’s known as an “access permit” for the project.

“They’re just saying ‘It’s y’all’s responsibility to pay?'” said Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt in her best mock drawl of an apparent good ol’ boy.

Other Town Council members also expressed disbelief at CDOT’s stance, as did Town Manager Tom Baker.

“They’re saying it’s development driven. Well, what light isn’t?” asked Baker.

The council directed Gish to keep working with CDOT to try to receive funding for the stoplight. Gish said he will also approach Eagle County for funds and try to get Eagle County to make the developers of the Kodiak and Blue Ridge developments assist. Those developments are approved but unbuilt on the north side of the intersection. When they tie into the highway, it will make a full intersection with four roads. Currently it’s a three-roaded intersection.

Gish said Eagle County officials have acknowledged some responsibility to pay for the light since that government approved City Market and the surrounding Orchard Plaza commercial project.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]


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