Trail connection to link Basalt, El Jebel | AspenTimes.com

Trail connection to link Basalt, El Jebel

An important trail link that will allow pedestrians and cyclists to travel between Basalt and El Jebel without using roads will be finished in mid-October.

The town of Basalt is connecting the Emma Trail to the Willits Trail. The Emma Trail parallels Highway 82 between the Basalt post office and a point just downvalley from the former Emma Store. The new connection will cross the Roaring Fork River and hook into the Willits Trail at the Aspen Junction bus stop along Two Rivers Road.

From there, the Willits Trail crosses under Highway 82 and parallels Willits Lane as it makes a huge horseshoe-shaped bend toward West Basalt and El Jebel.

The project also will allow travelers to make numerous connections between various trail systems without using the highway or other roads, noted project manager Tom Newland of Newland Project Resources.

Newland said the Emma-Willits trail link came about after the town studied the feasibility of building a trail along Two Rivers Road between downtown Basalt and the Aspen Junction bus stop. Engineering challenges would have boosted the price of that project to about $10 million, Newland said. The Emma-Willits connection is an alternative that is less than one-tenth that price.

The Emma-Willits trail link will cost about $883,000. Newland said the town received a $260,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation. The town is covering the balance.

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Newland said a Two Rivers Road Trail hasn’t been ruled out, but it’s on the back burner for now.

This new trail link is 1,100 feet long. The bulk of the expense is spanning the Roaring Fork River. The town used half of the old Maroon Creek pedestrian bridge for the project. That bridge near Aspen was dismantled for construction of a new vehicular and pedestrian structure.

Newland said the old bridge had to be tweaked for use in Basalt. The metal framing was refabricated and structural pieces were added to custom-fit it to its new home.

“It delayed the project by about six weeks,” Newland said. The trail link was originally forecast to be finished on Aug. 1.

It also cost $50,000 to customize the old Maroon Creek Bridge, Newland said. It “barely” made sense to reuse the old bridge rather than build a new span, he said.

The bridge is now in place, and crews are pouring concrete for the approaches. The availability of concrete will determine when the project is completed and the bridge opened, Newland said.

“It’s looking like, worst case, we’re three weeks out,” he said.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com