Underpass recommended for highway crossing at Aspen airport
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
ASPEN – An underpass has emerged as the recommended option for a separate pedestrian crossing of Highway 82 near the busy Aspen-Pitkin County Airport and Aspen Business Center intersection.
While various components of a funding package to build the crossing continue to come together – a $500,000 allocation of state transportation money was recently added to the mix – upper-valley elected officials are scheduled to review the options next month.
Consultants will recommend an underpass be constructed, based on feedback collected from the public, according to Stan Clauson, of Aspen-based Stan Clauson Associates. His firm and Parsons Transportation Group were hired to do preliminary work on the alternatives.
Both overpass and underpass options will be presented to the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, when it convenes March 22 in Aspen, but the underpass will have the consultants’ nod, Clauson said.
“In the public process that we did, people were more generally concerned with issues related to the overpass rather than the underpass – mostly visual issues,” he said.
Pitkin County commissioners initiated planning for a grade-separated pedestrian crossing in the high-traffic area to provide safe access across the highway between what will be upgraded transit stops in front of both the airport and the business center. On the airport side, the transit stop will tie into an envisioned new commercial terminal and parking garage – facilities that are still in the planning stage.
A pedestrian underpass involves a 122-foot tunnel, according to Clauson. The goal for designers is to create an inviting crossing, not a long, dark corridor beneath the highway. Wide, spacious openings are envisioned, and a skylight in the median may be possible, Clauson said.
“It would not feel claustrophobic, at least that’s the intention,” he said.
The Elected Officials Transportation Committee, made up of elected officials from Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County, is funding the planning and design of the crossing with a $250,000 allocation that comes from sales tax revenues dedicated to transportation purposes.
The project is slated for $1.5 million in state transportation money, but not until 2016. Pitkin County officials thought there might be an opportunity to swap projects with the town of Eagle, moving up the pedestrian crossing to 2013, while Eagle would use the 2016 allocation.
If state grants come together in a way that allows use of all the money in the same construction year, the project might be getting close to fully funded, according to Brian Pettet, county public works director. Preliminary estimates to construct the crossing ranged from $2.5 million to $4 million, with the underpass being on the less expensive end of the spectrum.
“This is going to move forward,” Pettet said. “I think it’s a matter of timing. It’s a matter of patience.”
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