Public to weigh in on Castle Creek Trail costs | AspenTimes.com

Public to weigh in on Castle Creek Trail costs

The cost to build a less than 1-mile-long trail in the lower portion of the Castle Creek Valley ranges from a little more than $1 million to just over $5 million, a Pitkin County official said Wednesday.

The costs depend on which side of the road the trail would go, though the cheapest option nixes the trail portion altogether in favor of merely widening the shoulder, said Gary Tennenbaum, executive director of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Program.

"We've been talking about this trail for a very long time," Tennenbaum told county commissioners Wednesday during a work session.

Indeed, the trail was first set to be built in 2007 along the east side of Castle Creek Road for $1.9 million. However, 13 Castle Creek residents filed a lawsuit, which halted work on the project and has since been settled. The less than 4,000-foot trail would run from the spot where the Marolt Trail crosses Castle Creek Road above Aspen Valley Hospital, to the campuses of the Aspen Music Festival and School and Aspen Country Day School.

With the lawsuit settled, commissioners a year ago directed staff to prioritize building the trail again, mainly for safety reasons.

Representatives of both the Music School and Country Day School attended a commissioner meeting a year ago and showed a video of children, parents and music school students riding along Castle Creek Road while large trucks and cars attempted to avoid them. Students spoke in the video of their arms nearly being hit and a general lack of safety along the road.

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The process of planning the trail began in earnest in July, with public comment on the project being collected until Sept. 29, Tennenbaum said. Officials received about 1,000 statements, with many commenting on the need for greater safety along the road, he said.

In order to better gauge use of the corridor, open space employees installed a camera along the road for a one-week period in August and another week in September, Tennenbaum said. They didn't tell anyone about the camera, he said.

From Aug. 2 to 9, the camera recorded 179 pedestrian trips, 1,936 bicycle trips and 17,914 vehicle trips, Tennenbaum said. Between Sept. 17 and 24, the camera recorded 72 pedestrian trips, 801 bicycle trips and 15,317 vehicle trips, he said.

The vehicle numbers tracked with what officials thought was happening on the road, he said. The bicycle numbers, however, were surprising, as were the number of pedestrians, Tennenbaum said.

"The pedestrian trips were higher than we thought," he said.

The next step in the process was putting together estimates of how much the trail might cost.

Officials came up with three different plans, including alignments on the west side of the road, the east side of the road and only widening the shoulder, Tennenbaum said.

The most expensive option is to put the trail on the west side of Castle Creek Road. That plan would cost $5.1 million and include an 8-foot trail to be shared by bikers and walkers, a 5-foot uphill bicycle lane and would retain the 24-foot roadway, he said.

That route — on the non-river side of the road — is most expensive because it would require construction of retaining walls and rockfall mitigation in certain spots, Tennenbaum said.

The east side option — along Castle Creek — would cost $3.8 million and include an 8-foot shared trail that would be constructed a few feet below the roadway, as well as a 4-foot uphill bike lane, a 2-foot shoulder improvement and would also retain the 24-foot roadway, he said.

Simply widening the shoulder of the road — which would include varying widths — comes at a cost of $1 million, Tennenbaum said. In going over that plan, officials have determined that they'd also likely have to construct a 3- to 4-foot trail on the east side of the road for pedestrians, he said. Estimates for that portion have not yet been determined, Tennenbaum said.

Since the section of road is in both the city of Aspen and Pitkin County, it would require both commissioners and the City Council to agree on the alignment, he said.

"We're hoping to come up with a consensus alignment that both (bodies of elected officials) can come together on," Tennenbaum said.

A public open house on the proposed trail will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 15 at Aspen City Council Chambers. Public comment on the alignments will likely be extended from Dec. 15 to Dec. 31, he said.

After that, open space officials will come back with a preferred alignment and construction schedule in 2018, Tennenbaum said.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

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