Plan for El Jebel bus stop hits speed bump
EL JEBEL – A plan by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to construct a new, enhanced bus stop in El Jebel ran into stiff opposition Thursday from about 20 residents of a neighborhood concerned about traffic and road realignments that will require paving parts of parks.
Sopris Village residents aired multiple objections about RFTA’s plan to construct a 90-vehicle parking lot and bus stop west of the Orchard Plaza development, which includes Movieland. The parking lot is the former site of multiple restaurants, including Weigner’s, Cilantro and Mermaid’s. The parking lot and bus stop are part of RFTA’s plan to expand its bus fleet and offer more direct service in the valley. A big part of the so-called bus rapid transit plan hinges on providing comfortable, convenient bus stops. Fourteen bus stops, some with park-and-rides, are planned throughout the valley.
Eagle County says RFTA’s parking lot, combined with a proposed indoor recreation center on Crown Mountain Park, will require a major realignment of roads south of Highway 82 in El Jebel so they can handle increased traffic.
Eagle County says the intersection of Valley Road and El Jebel Road must be moved farther away from Highway 82 to allow traffic to stack. To accomplish that, a county consultant recommends realigning East Valley Road through RFTA’s proposed parking lot, through a corner of the Sopris Village playground and along the edge of Crown Mountain Park, south of an existing county office building.
That proposal has failed so far to earn the support of the Basalt Town Council or the Pitkin County commissioners. And on Thursday, Sopris Village residents teed off on the road plan at a Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission meeting.
“I care that they’re going to pave over our park at Sopris Village and pave over Crown Mountain Park,” said Janine Gunning, a resident of the subdivision. Sopris Village, the neighborhood behind the El Jebel City Market, is home to 130 families.
Angela Kincade, assistant project manager of bus rapid transit, stressed to the audience that RFTA didn’t propose the road realignment. The bus agency is trying to be a “team player” with Eagle County and Crown Mountain to work on a plan, she said.
But Sopris Village residents had plenty of other complaints about RFTA’s plan. Access to the parking lot will be from Sopris Village Drive. When commuters leave at the end of the day, some of them will likely drive through Sopris Village, said resident Michael Meiners. It is an older subdivision with narrow streets and no sidewalks, he noted, so pedestrians are on the streets.
“As a resident of Sopris Village, I find this to be a detriment to my neighborhood,” he said, referring to RFTA’s plan.
He likened the road and access plan to a deadly weapon.
“It’s almost like a gun barrel pointed at Sopris Village,” he said.
Numerous speakers noted that the realigned Valley Road will cut too close to kids playing in Sopris Village’s playground and too close to the soccer fields in Crown Mountain.
Ted Guy, a resident of Willits Lane, said the road plan must be reconsidered. A roundabout at the intersection of Valley Road, El Jebel Road and Sopris Village Drive would calm traffic and handle the traffic flow, he contended. The roundabout would be far superior to what’s been proposed, he said.
“I think this is being driven by a train wreck of an intersection that’s only going to get worse,” Guy said of the current plan.
Other Sopris Village residents expressed concerns that water running off the parking lot could affect the subdivision’s domestic water well. Several residents urged RFTA to keep the major bus stop and parking lot in El Jebel at its current location, on property owned by the Crawford family near El Jebowl.
Kincade said the proposed site is vital for RFTA’s operation. The bus stop must be on Highway 82 to ensure quick bus service to Aspen. That site also allows better coordination between local service and direct service buses, she said.
The bus rapid transit plan will cost $46.2 million for the infrastructure and new buses. RFTA received a $25 million federal grant. Another $21.2 million in funding was approved by Roaring Fork Valley voters.
The Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission, which advises the Eagle County commissioners, didn’t vote on RFTA’s proposal Thursday. The meeting was continued until 4:30 p.m. March 22 to give more Sopris Village residents an opportunity to attend.
Gunning said after the meeting that the road-realignment controversy could spill into other debates. Many residents of the subdivision will be reluctant to support the proposed indoor recreation center at Crown Mountain because of the current road-realignment plan. The indoor recreation center could go to voters for funding through a property tax as soon as November. Crown Mountain officials, like RFTA, didn’t propose the road-realignment plan. They are reacting to Eagle County’s lead.
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