Pain, then gain, for bicyclists |

Pain, then gain, for bicyclists

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

PITKIN COUNTY ” A chip-seal project and planned trail construction might temporarily inconvenience bicyclists this summer, but newly paved segments of bike trail in the Roaring Fork Valley will be the end result.

Pitkin County plans to overlay McLain Flats Road with chip-seal this summer. Road bikers tend to despise chip-seal ” a tar-and-gravel resurfacing ” because loose gravel and a rough surface often result until vehicle traffic compresses the gravel into the tar.

The county Public Works Department will seek bids for “double chip,” containing gravel of two different sizes, specifically with road bicyclists in mind, officials told county commissioners last week. The double chip is twice as costly, said Public Works Director Brian Pettet, but the smaller chips fill in the spaces between the larger chips to create a smoother surface, he said.

The budget is $515,000 to chip seal the road from the Aspen city boundary to the intersection with Smith Hill Way.

The work will be timed to minimize interference with several biking events in the valley this summer, including the Ride the Rockies bike tour, said G.R. Fielding, county engineer. Ride the Rockies presumably will make use of McLain Flats Road as bikers head from Aspen to Glenwood Springs in June.

In addition, the county is working toward creating a dual surface on the Rio Grande Trail between Pitkin Iron and W/J Ranch in the Woody Creek area. The plan is to create a paved trail in addition to the existing soft-surface trail. About a mile of the 2.3-mile section would involve a separated trail; the paved and unpaved surfaces would be side by side in the rest of the stretch.

“It is our intention to try to do it this year,” said Gary Tennenbaum, land steward for Pitkin County Open Space and Trails.

Offering a paved path on the segment will let road bikers avoid most of the steep stretch of McLain Flats Road on the Woody Creek end, not to mention construction truck traffic.

Tennenbaum said he wasn’t sure whether the trail would be closed in the area if the project goes forward. The county will try to coordinate the trail work so it’s not taking place at the same time chip seal is being applied to McLain Flats Road ” the alternate route, he said.

Once the dual surface is in place, the county will begin seeking community input on what to do with the final unpaved stretch of the Rio Grande Trail, between W/J and Stein Park on the edge of Aspen. The public has been divided between those who want it paved and those who prefer gravel. The trail corridor is too constricted in places to easily accomplish a dual surface like the one planned below W/J, Tennenbaum said.

“The upvalley part is going to be difficult,” he said.

Below Pitkin Iron, the Rio Grande Trail is paved all the way to Glenwood Springs.

Finally, construction of the first 5.5 miles of the Crystal Trail is slated to go out for bid this spring. Pitkin County, Garfield County and the town of Carbondale are working together to build a trail from Carbondale to the BRB Crystal River Resort in the Crystal River Valley, offering an alternative to biking on Highway 133.

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