Trail options from park and ride lot to Aspen Business Center range from $20M to $29M |

Trail options from park and ride lot to Aspen Business Center range from $20M to $29M

Building a trail between the Brush Creek park and ride lot and the Aspen Business Center is feasible, but it won’t come cheap.

That was the message Thursday delivered to members of the Pitkin County and city of Aspen Open Space and Trails boards, which agreed that more information about future commuter habits will be necessary before area elected officials can give a thumbs up or down to the project. The two boards did agree, however, to recommend that the Elected Officials Transportation Committee move forward with that process.

“How many commuters will use it year-round?” said Howie Mallory, a member of both boards. “We need that data.”

The first of two options — which would require two approximately 600-foot bridges across the Roaring Fork River — present Thursday would cost between $20 million and $22 million, according to a feasibility study done by SGM, an engineering firm. The second, which would parallel Highway 82, came in at between $26.5 million and nearly $29 million.

“I’m sure a lot of you looked at the (price tags) and were like, ‘Whoa, look at that number,’” said Gary Tennenbaum, director of Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails Program. “This is an expensive project.”

The first option — known as the “Twin Bridges Alignment” — envisions a trail beginning at the southeast corner of the Brush Creek lot leading to a 592-foot-long bridge across the river that would land on property owned by the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District and link to the Rio Grande Trail, said Mark Frymoyer, an SGM structural engineer.

Sanitation district officials are receptive to the idea, Tennenbaum said.

The trail would then piggy-back on the Rio Grande for a little less than a mile until it came to a 650-foot-long bridge back across the river about 250 feet north of the Sardy property and land on property owned by Pitkin County, Frymoyer said. It would then follow Highway 82 and terminate at the Aspen Business Center.

The best option is to make the bridges look similar to the Tiehack pedestrian bridge, Frymoyer said. The trail would require about 1.5 miles of new trail construction.

The second option would parallel the eastside of Highway 82, require about 2,400 feet of bridges and nearly 2.3 miles of new trail construction. However, that alignment presents safety problems with debris coming off the highway – particularly in winter – as well as not providing a connection to the Rio Grande Trail and requiring significantly more structure, retaining walls and construction difficulty than the first option, said Ashley Cline, an SGM engineer.

While some board members expressed surprise that the Highway 82 option wasn’t the cheapest or easiest, all agreed that the first option was clearly best.

But the amount of money required made some skeptical of the project.

“Is it a viable commuter link?” said Michael Kinsley, a Pitkin County board member. “I would not pay $20 million just for recreation.”

Kinsley also said he was “extremely dubious” that the trail would be used by bicycle commuters in winter.

More than 75% of respondents to Pitkin County’s latest resident survey said they believed a connection between Brush Creek park and ride and the ABC was very important or somewhat important, Tennenbaum said.

The county Open Space Program, the city and the Elected Officials Transportation Committee paid $25,000 for the feasibility study. So far, $25,000 has been budgeted this year to fund a public opinion process to determine if the trail should go forward.