Third lane looked at for bridge |

Third lane looked at for bridge

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen should explore changes to the Castle Creek Bridge, including adding a third lane, as it seeks to alleviate gridlock on Highway 82, the city’s S-Curves task force agreed Wednesday.

The 13-member group, charged by the Aspen City Council to study the existing highway alignment and improve the city’s traffic flow, met this week for the second time since its inception. Task force members were asked to bring their own “problem statements” to yesterday’s meeting to help the group identify major obstacles.

Task force member Tom McCabe, a former City Councilman, stated his view of the problem simply.

“Lack of capacity, emergency response limitations, no mass transit priority, too many private access points, too unsafe, no identified funding [for improvements],” he reported.

Tourists confused by the sudden curves in and out of town also contribute, reported task force member Cliff Weiss. And traffic generated by the schools – mostly parents who refuse to use the bus system – doesn’t help, Weiss said.

Multiple access streets, including Bleeker and Hallam, also add to the congestion, Donna Fisher said.

Task force members agreed the biggest problems with the Entrance to Aspen include the traffic funnel created by the Castle Creek Bridge and the stoplight at Cemetery Lane.

“We all know the Castle Creek Bridge is the pits, a bottleneck,” complained one task force member.

If size and structural limitations will allow, the addition of a third lane should improve the flow of traffic into town, task force members agreed. The new lane could operate like a similar addition to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, member Charlie Eckart suggested, and switch directions depending on the time of day and rush-hour traffic needs.

“Add a third reversible lane, perhaps for buses only, providing a second lane eastbound in the mornings and westbound in the afternoons,” member Dennis Vaughn wrote in a list of solutions presented to the task force. “The bridge should be wide enough to permit this with the removal of the pedestrian lanes, which are dangerous and not user friendly.”

Installation of a parallel bridge for bikers and pedestrians could encourage more car-free commuters, Vaughn said.

The group agreed to explore the Castle Creek Bridge’s design during future meetings to determine if a third lane is feasible.

Improvements to the Cemetery Lane intersection could be as simple as a “smart light” that could recognize the number of cars waiting to proceed, Weiss said.

Task force members also suggested ways to “soften” the S-curves, including the elimination of parking on Main Street during peak travel hours.

The group will meet again next week as members begin to narrow their list of proposed solutions. They will convene three more times before late September, when the task force will present its findings and recommendations to the City Council.

Task force member Bill Wiener ended Wednesday’s meeting with the hope that sustainable improvements could be found in the group’s next session.

“I’m not real happy with the way things are going,” he said. “We’re just doing Band-Aids on automobile flow.”

[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is]

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