Paving Midnight Mine not popular with Pitkin commissioners
A homeowner’s offer to pay for the first part of Midnight Mine Road to be paved met with a cool response from Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday.
“It’s hard for me to change the character of an area that’s been well-established before you moved there,” Commissioner Rachel Richards said. “I think you would attract a lot more traffic.”
Sandy Grossman, who moved two years ago to a residence along the steep, dirt road up the back side of Aspen Mountain that begins off of Castle Creek Road, has been working with the county to try to improve the drainage along the road since he arrived, said G.R. Fielding, Pitkin County engineer.
Grossman, however, said improvements generally only last about two weeks before they are washed away and the road begins to erode. So Grossman offered to pay to pave the first 0.6 of a mile of the road, which features a 13 percent grade, Fielding said. The paving would run up to Grossman’s driveway, he said.
The county currently spends about $21,000 a year to maintain the road, and likely would save about $110,000 over a 10-year period if the road was paved, he said. However, the county would have to maintain the pavement, which could cost about $250,000 every 10 to 15 years, Fielding said.
Estimates for the paving have not been done yet, he said.
Paving the road would not change the width or the grade and likely would not significantly affect the traffic volume, he said. The county currently maintains the first 0.8 mile of the road in the winter.
Neighbors along Midnight Mine Road said they viewed paving the road as a positive safety improvement, though other members of the newly-formed Castle Creek Caucus viewed the project negatively because it would affect the area’s character, Fielding said.
Grossman, a full-time resident, said he wants to be able to walk safely along the road with his grandchildren while also improving the road’s quality.
Commissioner George Newman echoed Richards’ earlier comments, saying he believed paving the road would encourage more traffic.
“It’s important to try and maintain and preserve the rural character of Pitkin County,” he said.
Commissioner Patti Clapper said she was unsure what benefits to the county or to Grossman paving the road might provide.
“I understand the safety issues, but there is some benefit to having a road with potholes,” she said. “People tend to slow down.”
In addition to her concerns about character and the possibility of more traffic, Richards said she worried about fair treatment for every area of Pitkin County.
“I’m very concerned with equity issues,” she said. “If you’re near Aspen, you get special treatment. But in Meredith or Redstone, the answer is no.”
Grossman said he was not wedded to the idea of paving the road and would be willing to discuss other options.
In the end, commissioners didn’t flat out veto the paving idea, saying they wanted to gather more information before making a decision.
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