Traffic solution could chew up El Jebel open space | AspenTimes.com

Traffic solution could chew up El Jebel open space

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO, Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times
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BASALT – Eagle County government is considering relocating East Valley Road through a portion of Crown Mountain Park to try to solve road-design flaws in El Jebel.A consultant for the county recommended that East Valley Road – a frontage road parallel to Highway 82 – be relocated to the south of the existing Eagle County government building and community center. Realigning the road would require chewing up an undetermined amount of acres of open space.The county’s goal is to relocate the intersection of East Valley Road and El Jebel Road farther away from Highway 82 to avoid stacking issues. Those roads intersect south of the main El Jebel intersection on Highway 82. The county also wants to make travel safer for pedestrians.The county hired an engineering consultant to work on road issues as part of its review of a proposed indoor recreation center at Crown Mountain Park. Basalt Town Council members weren’t impressed with the proposed solution to the road woes. They reviewed the various alternatives Tuesday night and will submit comments at Eagle County’s request.”To me, none of these are acceptable,” said Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux. He said Eagle County and the Colorado Department of Transportation designed the current road alignment when the county office and community center was constructed. The location of that building so close to the troubled intersection really limits the options for solving traffic issues, he said. Prior to the construction of the building, Basalt offered Eagle County land for an office building in Willits Town Center. The offer was declined.”Eagle County cannot blame anybody but themselves,” Duroux said. Councilwoman Anne Freedman said she didn’t think the proposed realignment would help pedestrians cross East Valley Road or El Jebel Road from an underpass of Highway 82 or from nearby bus station.”Realistically, nobody is going to let their kids go to the rec center across this mess,” she said.Councilman Glenn Rappaport said there has to be a grade-separated pedestrian crossing to earn his support. If pedestrians are forced to cross one of the roads, “I think it’s a failure,” he said.Councilman Pete McBride concurred that the proposed solution didn’t appear to take pedestrians into account.”It seems heavily driven by the automobile, entirely,” he said.Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt questioned why the county would consider realigning the road through Crown Mountain Park. She said she wonders “how the community is going to feel about a road bifurcating a park that we just got, really.””This is something the public could and should be upset about,” Whitsitt later added.In summing up the council’s sentiments, Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane said, “It feels like the cure is worse than the disease.”Eagle and Pitkin counties acquired the former Mount Sopris Tree Farm from the Forest Service in the mid-1990s. Crown Mountain Park was developed in the 2000s after voters approved funding through a property tax. The park features baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, a fenced dog park, a playground and a one-mile loop paved trail. The trail is among the most popular amenities.The proposed road alignment would route the road over a section of trail a couple of hundred feet long. Other amenities in the park don’t appear to be affected by the proposal.Davis Farrar, a land-use planning consultant for the Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District, told the Basalt council members that the recreation district board shared its concerns about the county consultant’s preferred alternative.”We don’t like it either,” he said.The proposal would realign East Valley Road so it heads south on the west side of the Orchard Plaza and Movieland complex and then goes south of the community center and hooks back into the existing East Valley Road at the current entrance to Crown Mountain Park or slightly to the west. The engineering consultant, Stolfus & Associates, provided options for hooking back into the existing road.El Jebel Road would run more straight south of Highway 82 before bending southeast and forming an intersection with East Valley Road.The proposal will be formally unveiled for residents at an Eagle County Commissioner meeting Feb. 7 as part of the review of the proposed recreation center. No time has been set yet for the meeting.scondon@aspentimes.com


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