El Jebel Road slated for $2 million makeover in 2016
The Aspen Times
Travelers on the most congested road in El Jebel will get relief but they must be patient for a couple more years.
El Jebel Road will get a $2 million makeover designed to improve flow onto and from Highway 82, convert access into commercial areas into right-in and right-out only and add a roundabout at its intersection with Shadow Rock Drive.
A primary goal will be to add a dedicated right-turn only lane on El Jebel Road onto westbound or downvalley Highway 82, according to Eagle County engineer Eva Wilson. The dedicated lane is important because traffic crossing Highway 82 and turning right currently share a lane. Traffic gets backed up when more than one vehicle is cued to go straight, Wilson said.
Other improvements will target congestion on El Jebel Road. An island will be built in the center of El Jebel Road that will require traffic going to the El Jebel Plaza and to the Wendy’s complex to make right-in, right-out turns only. That will affect customers going to destinations such as Bella Mia, Down Valley Tavern, NAPA Auto Parts and surrounding businesses on the east side of El Jebel Road. Traffic headed to Wendy’s or the Shell gas station when coming off Highway 82 would no longer be able to turn left from El Jebel Road. They would be required to drive past Wendy’s, circle the roundabout and make a right turn into the fast-food joint.
Wilson said it is a priority for the Colorado Department of Transportation to prevent traffic from exiting the highway and turning left into Wendy’s and adjacent businesses. There is a short stacking distance available and traffic sometimes backs onto the highway while waiting for vehicles to turn.
The work will allegedly improve the intersection from a service level “C” or “D” to a “B,” according to Wilson.
The challenge was finding the funds for the project. CDOT awarded a $1 million Hazard Elimination and Safety grant a few years ago after there was a fatal accident at the intersection of Highway 82 and El Jebel Road. However, CDOT recently informed Eagle County that it wanted to pull the funds and use them elsewhere if the county was unable to raise the balance of the money needed for the project, Wilson said.
The county commissioners said they needed to take advantage of the state grant. Commissioner Jill Ryan said she got an “earful” about the condition of the intersection and roadway in that vicinity during a recent event in the Basalt-El Jebel area.
Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry said the project is a critical one in the midvalley and warranted Eagle County finding the additional funds. “I think we have an obligation to do the best we can,” she said.
The commissioners approved a staff recommendation to use $225,000 from each of four funds: the road impact fee fund, the general fund, road and bridge fund and capital improvement projects fund. That will raise $900,000.
Crawford Properties LLC, the major landowner in the El Jebel area, pledged $100,000 plus land needed to complete the project.
Eagle County Manager Brent McFall said the El Jebel Road project is the highest priority in the El Jebel area and will be the focus of available funds for some time. He said road impact fees would be used in coming years to repay the road and bridge fund and general fund. Until then, the county can shift funds to cover the project and guarantee it keeps the CDOT grant.
“We would not make this recommendation to you if it would cripple the county in other ways,” he said.
Robert Hubbell, CEO of Crawford Properties, said widening of the intersection would be well received by midvalley residents. He wasn’t as sure about the other major component of the project.
“There’s a mixed bag about roundabouts,” Hubbell said.
Wilson said the design will be finished and right-of-way acquired in 2016. Construction will likely start in 2017.
Eagle County also started design work to realign Valley Road, the frontage road on the south side of the main El Jebel intersection. That project, estimated to cost $3 to $4 million, is on hold.
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