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Traffic counters planned for Highway 82 corridor

Five locations have been selected to give transportation officials more information on how traffic is moving in the upper valley

Commuters avoid the traffic on Highway 82 by taking the detour on Power Plant Road in Aspen on Friday, May 6, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Transportation officials are working to get traffic counters placed at key locations along the Highway 82 corridor, including the often-used Power Plant Road.

Power Plant is a de facto route for commuters coming into Aspen from McLain Flats via Cemetery Lane, or leaving town via residential streets in the West End neighborhood.

In the past, the city of Aspen has done traffic counts on Power Plant Road for various reasons, but there has never been direction from top government officials to make it permanent.



Until now. Aspen City Council approved a $50,000 expenditure last month to put a permanent traffic counter on Power Plant.

“It’s pretty important because a lot of decisions are made on vehicle counts,” said Pete Rice, the city’s deputy city engineer. “We are trying to get a clear picture for the public and the council and get real data.”




The only traffic counter in the upper valley is at Castle Creek Bridge, which was placed in 1999 as part of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s final environmental impact statement for the Entrance to Aspen record of decision.

The city uses the traffic counter to stay on track with CDOT’s established goal of 1993 traffic levels of a monthly average of 23,675 cars daily.

But with an increasing number of commuters using Power Plant and the West End to divert backups on Main Street, the counter on Castle Creek does not give the full picture of traffic levels in and out of town.

The placement of the traffic counter on Power Plant Road, as well as several other locations along Highway 82, comes at a time when the city is preparing a community education project around the history of the Entrance to Aspen and CDOT’s record of decision.

Rendered in 1998, the record of decision’s preferred alternative signed off by CDOT and the Federal Highway Administration identifies the Entrance to Aspen as a two-lane parkway that goes under the Marolt-Thomas Open Space via a cut-and-cover tunnel that has a transit component including a light rail system and ends up on Seventh and Main streets leading to Rubey Park.

When the traffic counters will be installed is a question that David Pesnichak, regional transportation administrator for the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, wishes he could answer.

The project originated from the EOTC and is funded mostly by the advisory committee comprised of the elected officials from the city of Aspen, town of Snowmass Village and Pitkin County.

Pesnichak said the EOTC has earmarked $200,000 for traffic counters at Smith Hill Way where it intersects with McLain Flats Road, as well as at Highway 82 near the airport, Brush Creek Road and Owl Creek Road, along with the city’s commitment of $50,000 for Power Plant Road.

It was part of the EOTC’s request for proposals for design and build services so that all of them could be done with one system and coordinated.

Pesnichak said the RFP issued earlier this year didn’t attract any bidders and he is preparing to amend the proposal to just include the design portion of the job.

“Our hope was to get it installed this fall,” he said, adding that now the plan is to have a design later this year and installation in the spring.

If it can be done sooner, it will, Pesnichak said.

“We haven’t closed the door,” he said. “If we are going to have a broader picture of what traffic is doing over time, we really need these counters.”

csackariason@aspentimes.com

 


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