Transportation committee OKs more funding for Aspen pedestrian underpass |

Transportation committee OKs more funding for Aspen pedestrian underpass

ASPEN – The Elected Officials Transportation Committee voted unanimously Thursday to approve an extra $125,000 to finish design work related to the proposed pedestrian tunnel near the Aspen Business Center.

The committee – composed of members of the Aspen City Council, the Snowmass Village Town Council and the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners – also agreed to spend as much as $1 million from its own capital-funding pool on construction of the $3 million pedestrian-crossing project. The balance of the costs for that project, slated to begin next spring, is expected to be covered by the Pitkin County, state and federal governments.

The lighted tunnel is designed to give pedestrians a safer place to cross Highway 82 between the Aspen Business Center and the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. The crosswalk between the two areas, at Baltic Avenue, is considered dangerous by many local officials; pedestrians often have been seen running across the highway against the flow of vehicles amid peak traffic periods.

A year ago, county officials held a “public design charette” at Colorado Mountain College’s Aspen campus to gauge public preference for the location of either a tunnel or an overpass to link the two areas. Public participants indicated support for a tunnel concept. Earlier this year, the Elected Officials Transportation Committee endorsed a site for the tunnel close to the southern end of West Airport Road over the next-favored option, which was farther downvalley and closer to Baltic Avenue.

Committee members this spring also asked planners to scale back the project, which initially suggested an elaborate system of sidewalks, trails and plaza areas on each side.

During Thursday’s meeting, Aspen Councilman Torre and county Commissioner Rob Ittner voiced concerns over the request for more money to finish the design job.

But as Snowmass Councilman John Wilkinson pointed out, “We don’t really have another choice.”

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