Plan for underpass near Aspen airport moves ahead |

Plan for underpass near Aspen airport moves ahead

Courtesy of Pitkin County

ASPEN – A Highway 82 pedestrian underpass near the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport has been approved for final design work.

The Aspen City Council, Pitkin County commissioners and Snowmass Town Council have each given the project the go-ahead, the county confirmed Thursday. Elected officials from the three governments make up the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, which has funded the design work to date out of the proceeds of a sales tax dedicated to transit.

The committee will meet next in June.

The underpass will connect Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus stops on either side of the highway, located adjacent to the airport and the Aspen Business Center, upvalley from the Baltic Avenue intersection at the airport and business center.

“This highway crossing was identified in the Aspen Area Community Plan as a priority for improvement,” said county engineer G.R. Fielding in a prepared statement. “The situation there currently is not only dangerous, it’s inefficient for traffic.

“Most people think the problem there is the jaywalking, however, the real issue is that you have 50,000, if not close to 100,000 people crossing the highway here every year,” he said. “The jaywalking just exacerbates the issue.”

The underpass, like the bus stops, will be situated upvalley of the Baltic Avenue intersection, a placement that some elected officials initially questioned.

However, Fielding conducted a tally of pedestrians crossing the highway over a 12-hour period and found that almost a third of the people who crossed the thoroughfare jaywalked rather than crossing at the intersection crosswalk. About half of the pedestrians were getting on and off buses, he said.

His findings helped convince elected officials that the underpass would serve more pedestrians and interfere with traffic less if it was located away from the intersection, according to the county.

The state of Colorado has already committed $2 million toward the estimated $2.8 million project. The money is currently not available until 2015, though the Colorado Department of Transportation has been working to expedite a portion of the funding in order to complete the relocation of utilities in the area. That step would facilitate quicker construction of the underpass when funding becomes available. The utility relocation could occur this year.

The Elected Officials Transportation Committee will review the details of the final design; the plans will then be shelved until funding for construction is secured.

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