RFTA will oversee construction of Basalt’s $7M underpass

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Pedestrians cross the Highway 82 intersection with Basalt Avenue in Basalt in this file photo. Construction on a pedestrian underpass will start this summer.
Aspen Times file photo |

Basalt is going to hire the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Pitkin County to oversee construction of its $7.14 million pedestrian underpass of Highway 82.

The three governments are working on a management agreement that would pay RFTA and Pitkin County as much as $100,000 for oversight of the project, according to a draft of the document. Basalt doesn’t have a staff engineer. It pays a consulting firm for engineering services as needed.

The underpass has been a top priority for years for the Basalt government, but the estimated cost soared after the economy recovered from the Great Recession. The expense was estimated at $3.8 million as late as October 2014.

Town Manager Mike Scanlon cobbled together the funding for the higher prices. The town is kicking in about $3 million. State and federal grants will cover another $2.3 million. Pitkin County Open Space and Trails and the Elected Officials Transportation Committee will cover nearly $1.4 million, while RFTA will chip in $500,000.

Nicholas Senn, senior project manager for RFTA, will be the project manager for the pedestrian underpass. Pitkin County Engineer G.R. Fielding will act as the resident engineer on the project, according to the draft agreement.

The draft notes that Pitkin County and RFTA are offering “staff augmentation” to Basalt because of their “recent experience on the Colorado Department of Transportation funded (Aspen Airport Business Center) underpass.” However, Basalt officials are probably hopeful the experience goes smoother on the Basalt underpass. The Aspen Business Center project finished behind schedule.

The Basalt project is supposed to start later in September and wrap up in summer 2017. The pedestrian underpass will be built on the Aspen side of the Highway 82 intersection with Basalt Avenue. It will connect from the Basalt Store area to the bus station and parking lot.

The underpass will help bus riders and schoolchildren negotiate the highway more easily and provide an important link between downtown Basalt and the Rio Grande Trail. It also will eliminate the need for vehicles to wait for pedestrians, so it could potentially improve the flow of traffic on Highway 82 at the busy intersection, according to CDOT.