Underpass project won’t affect traffic much, Basalt and RFTA say | AspenTimes.com

Underpass project won’t affect traffic much, Basalt and RFTA say

BASALT – The thought of dealing with construction of a pedestrian underpass beneath Highway 82 would typically send fear down the spines of most commuters by conjuring up images of a torn-up roadway and snarled traffic.

But the town of Basalt and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority claim that a midvalley underpass will be built in conjunction with the bus agency’s $46 million expansion without creating a major headache for commuters.

The pedestrian underpass will be built in front of Willits Town Center by constructing bypass lanes that will keep traffic flowing, according to Mike Hermes, project manager for RFTA’s bus rapid transit project. There is enough right of way at the site to bow out two bypass lanes in each direction, he said.

“We’re just going to kind of build a bulge in the highway,” Hermes said.

The bypass lanes will be constructed this fall, but the new lanes will be closed off throughout the winter. In spring 2013, the bypass lanes will be opened and traffic diverted. The old lanes will be torn up, and the underpass will be constructed.

By summer, new lanes will be rebuilt over the underpass. Traffic will be diverted back to the old highway alignment, and the bypass lanes will be torn up. RFTA’s contractor, Gould Construction, will finish the ends of the pedestrian underpass and construct the bus rapid transit stations. The new stations will be more inviting and comfortable than RFTA’s current bus stop. They also will be considerably larger than the compact glass rectangles that now exist.

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The traffic-control plan for the underpass project has been approved by the Colorado Department of Transportation, according to RFTA, and a permit to start work will likely be issued in early October. Some minor traffic delays are inevitable during construction of the four bypass lanes this fall. The project will have no effect on traffic during the winter because it will be shut down.

When traffic is diverted onto the bypass lanes next spring, the posted speed will be 45 mph rather than 55 mph, Hermes said. While that will lead to some congestion during prime commute times, it won’t be as bad as if traffic was restricted to the existing lanes rather than the bypass lanes.

RFTA is adding 13 bus stations and four parking lots as part of its bus rapid transit-VelociRFTA expansion. The Willits stations and underpass are one of the bigger pieces of the project, though the underpass is a town of Basalt project.

The town is paying $500,000 of the cost, while Mariner Real Estate Management, developer of Willits Town Center, is committed to paying $910,000. The remaining $910,000 will be covered, in theory, by Lane when he develops his property. Basalt will temporarily cover the balance through a special fund of revenues.