Trees will be cut, replaced for Basalt underpass
About 25 trees are going to be collateral damage when Basalt builds a long-awaited pedestrian underpass beneath Highway 82 at Basalt Avenue.
Town officials know they are going to field concerns about the loss of the trees, so they made an announcement Monday well ahead of the timber being felled.
“It’s such a prominent corner in town,” Town Manager Mike Scanlon said. “It will dramatically change how the intersection looks.”
He recalled that when trees were removed during infrastructure work on the former site of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park, some residents got upset. One resident held a healing ceremony featuring gongs.
On a visit to the underpass site with a reporter Monday, Scanlon estimated 22 trees would be removed on the northeast corner of Highway 82 and Basalt Avenue near the Basalt Store gas station and convenience store. Most of the trees are mature narrow-leaf cottonwood trees. Another three trees will be removed from the southeast corner of the intersection near the Basalt Park and Ride lot.
The trees will be replaced, although they will be spaced along the sidewalk leading to the underpass rather than clumped together, Scanlon said. The trees likely will be cut down the second week of September.
Beyond the aesthetic impact, bus riders will be temporarily inconvenienced by the $7.14 million project. Bus stops on both sides of the highway must be moved 150 to 200 feet east, toward Aspen, to accommodate construction, Scanlon said. Some spaces in the Park and Ride lot also will be lost for construction staging.
The traffic lanes will be kept open during construction. The lanes will be switched to the north while work is underway on the south half of the underpass and vice versa.
The underpass has been a top priority for years, but Basalt had trouble finding the funding. The town is contributing about $3 million, while state and federal grants will cover $2.3 million. Pitkin County Open Space and Trails and the intergovernmental Elected Officials Transportation Committee teamed to contribute about $1.4 million. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will donate $500,000.
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