Officials: Trapani’s exit won’t affect entrance | AspenTimes.com

Officials: Trapani’s exit won’t affect entrance

Allyn HarveyAspen Times Staff Writer

Ralph Trapani says he has no regrets about leaving the Colorado Department of Transportation before the improvements to Highway 82 are completely finished. And neither do local officials.They don’t think his departure will have much effect on completion of the controversial and yet-to-be-funded Entrance to Aspen.Trapani, CDOT’s lead engineer in this part of the state, said most of the work on Highway 82 has been completed between Glenwood Springs and Aspen. And work on the Entrance to Aspen will be ready to begin once the money is available.Trapani announced earlier this week that he plans to retire from CDOT at the end of May. He has been with the department since 1975, when he was hired to help extend I-70 past Silt. He has managed projects along I-70 in Rifle, Vail Pass and Glenwood Canyon, and headed up the expansion of Highway 82 from Basalt to Buttermilk.”While I would like to stay until Highway 82 is completely finished, I’m working on my own schedule here around what I want to do as I approach my 50th birthday,” Trapani said.He said that after 27 years with the department, he is ready to take his pension and spend more time raising his 1-year-old son. He also plans to work at a local engineering consulting firm.He is credited by many as an exceptional engineer and manager who has been able to get difficult projects accepted by local communities and approved by decision makers at CDOT. But local officials such as Aspen assistant city manager Randy Ready and Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland say they don’t think his departure will interrupt work on the Entrance to Aspen.”With the city of Aspen’s contribution of the easement across the Marolt open space, the only questions left are what actually gets built and when do we get the money,” Ireland said.Ireland sits on the State Transportation Advisory Committee that is made up of elected officials from around the state. They advise the Colorado Transportation Commission on planning issues. It recently recommended that the Entrance to Aspen be given top priority once the state has money available.The Entrance to Aspen begins at Buttermilk and ends at the corner of Seventh and Main streets. Plans call for realigning the highway and constructing a light-rail platform across the empty field between the hospital and the golf course to a new bridge across Castle Creek that will line up directly with Main Street. Some of the open space will be preserved because the road and light rail will run through a 400-foot “cut and cover” tunnel. The existing road between Cemetery Lane and the roundabout will be removed, leaving a dirt road for emergency access.Trapani announced his retirement just days after the Aspen City Council voted 3-2 to follow through with an agreement that promised CDOT access across the Marolt open space in exchange for open space near the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road.Trapani says the exchange is just the latest step in a project that is beginning to pick up momentum.”My perception is that the job is moving along the way these projects do,” he said.He points out that CDOT, the city of Aspen and Pitkin County have been moving ahead with the Entrance to Aspen for several years in some very noticeable ways:-the roundabout was built in 1999 and 2000;-Owl Creek Road has been relocated and a parkway built between Buttermilk and Maroon Creek;-improvements have been made at the entrance to the city golf course and Truscott housing project;-preliminary engineering has been completed on realigning the highway across the Marolt open space;-and last week the council gave CDOT the easement it needs to cross Marolt.If the Snowmass Canyon portion of the project had stalled, Trapani said he might of had second thoughts about retiring. But, instead, it is running a year ahead of schedule, which means the Basalt to Buttermilk section of Highway 82 could be completed in just eight years.As for the Entrance to Aspen, Trapani says there is a strong team in place to continue pushing the project forward. They include resident engineer Joe Elsen, Snowmass Canyon project engineer Joe Archuleta, landscape architect Terry Keane and structural specialist Pete Mertes.”I’ve had an incredible team on whose backs these projects have been built,” Trapani said.Owen Leonard, Trapani’s immediate supervisor, said there are plenty of highly qualified employees ready to pick up where Trapani leaves off.