Safer, more pleasant Main Street could cost $3 million |

Safer, more pleasant Main Street could cost $3 million

John Colson

The cost to “enhance” Main Street will be $3 million if the city acts on the recommendations in a study recently completed for the Aspen City Council.

The study was authorized at the request of outgoing City Council member Jake Vickery. He has been calling for the city for months to do something to improve the pedestrian and visual “experience” at the western end of Main Street.

In February, the council gave the OK for the Otak consulting firm to conduct the $10,000 Main Street study. Otak also has a $165,000 contract to work on the Entrance to Aspen plans.

The Main Street enhancements plan, according to Otak’s Roger Millar, calls for construction of several median “pedestrian refuge” strips down the middle of the street, and special raised crosswalks, termed “speed tables.”

The “speed tables,” Millar explained, would be slightly elevated from the street surface and paved with a different material than the rest of the street, perhaps brick, so that motorists would see the crosswalk more clearly as they approached.

Millar indicated that trees could be planted along the medians, which he predicted would encourage motorists to drive more slowly. Currently, motorists tend to gain speed as they come down what Vickery called the “landing field” stretched out before them.

These and other improvements are meant to go along with the general Entrance to Aspen plans, Millar said. The Entrance will involve construction of either a light-rail system or a dedicated busway from the Pitkin County Airport into the center of town.

In addition, the Colorado Department of Transportation has plans to completely rebuild the surface of Main Street within the next few years.

Millar explained that there is sufficient room in the 100-foot Main Street right of way to include the median strips, turn lanes at certain intersections, and the rail or busway transit corridor along the north side of the street.

Another of Vickery’s ideas, the placement of a “monument” at the Fifth Street crossing, could be incorporated into the median, Millar said.

And although the mass transit route is planned to turn south toward Aspen Mountain at Monarch Street, to reach Rubey Park, Millar’s plan calls for the construction of additional median strips all the way to Original Curve.

Millar applauded Vickery’s initiative in identifying a need to spruce up the “interstitial spaces” along the street, meaning the area between the sidewalk and the fronts of buildings along the street.

He agreed with Vickery that these spaces are not being used appropriately and could be redesigned for either use by the public or for greater visual interest to passersby on the sidewalk. But he stressed that the city must first win the approval and cooperation of the private property owners along the Main Street corridor.

Explaining that there is about 14 feet of city-owned right of way beyond the curb on “either side of the street,” Millar said that space could be taken up by sidewalks between six and eight feet wide and the use of “furnishings” like bicycle parking, newspaper boxes, benches, trash receptacles, etc.

Millar differed with Vickery’s suggestion that there be a “low wall” along the curb line on the north side of the street to protect pedestrians from being splashed by passing cars.

“Aspenites love to jaywalk,” Millar said, explaining that such a “splash guard” might trap pedestrians on the street. Plus, he said, because of safety requirements, the wall might have to look like a highway-style “Jersey barrier.”

Along the stretch of Main between First and Monarch streets, Millar said the current plan is for a double “passing track” to allow trains or buses approaching from opposite directions to pass each other.

Only two members of the council – Vickery and Jim Markalunas – were there for Millar’s presentation. City Manager Amy Margerum said the study has yet to be seen by the full council and has not been discussed in any detail.

“It really is tied closely into what the Entrance to Aspen is going to be,” she said. “I think what Roger did was just a first step.”

She stressed that no further funds have been set aside for pursuing the study’s recommendations.

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