Pedestrian crossing at Aspen’s Buttermilk Ski Mountain on way to reality
A safe and convenient pedestrian crossing at the intersection of Owl Creek Road and Highway 82 near Buttermilk Ski Mountain could become a reality by 2019, a county official said this week.
“It’s an important improvement,” said Brian Pettet, Pitkin County’s public works director. “In wintertime, a lot of people cross there.”
The Elected Officials Transportation Committee, made up of members of the Aspen City Council, the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners and the Snowmass Village Town Council, unanimously approved allocating $800,000 for the project at a meeting Oct. 20.
That money will be used to design and engineer the pedestrian crossing in 2018, Pettet said.
“We’re at the very beginning of the project,” he said.
Once those plans are complete, Pettet and other officials will look for state and federal grant money to fund construction, which is expected to cost between $7 million and $9 million, he said. Often state and federal governments want to use grant money to infuse dollars quickly into the economy, and those officials look for “shovel-ready” projects to fund, Pettet said.
The large difference in the construction estimate is based on cost uncertainty three years down the road, he said. A pedestrian underpass project in Basalt, which recently began construction, is estimated to cost $7.1 million, Pettet said.
Whether the Buttermilk crossing will be an overpass or an underpass has not yet been decided, Pettet said, though he expects it will probably be an underpass.
“Tunnels have been the preferred method because of viewplanes and (the fact that) people don’t like to see overpasses,” Pettet said.
The project, which has been talked about for approximately five years, would originate just downvalley of the Owl Creek/Highway 82 intersection near the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus stop, he said.
Pettet said he’d also like to get Aspen Skiing Co. involved in helping fund the project since it would benefit from skiers and snowboarders making it across the road safely.
Jeff Hanle, Skico spokesman, said Friday he couldn’t comment on any possible funding, but agreed that a pedestrian crossing at the intersection would be beneficial, especially during Winter X Games.
“It’s a good step in the right direction,” Hanle said. “I definitely think it would be a benefit to our guests and locals who ride the bus (to Buttermilk).”
Another benefit, Pettet said, is that the light at Owl Creek and Highway 82 would change less frequently, allowing traffic to flow more efficiently.
In a “perfect world scenario,” the pedestrian crossing would be built in 2019, though that is not guaranteed, he said.