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Valley Road overhaul eating

Aspen Times Staff Report

Five years after it was acquired, the Mt. Sopris Tree Farm is finally being put to use – although use for road construction probably isn’t what most midvalley residents envisioned.

Eagle County is undertaking a $697,000 overhaul of Valley Road, starting at its intersection with State Highway 82 and traveling west, or downvalley, to a point behind the El Jebel Amoco station.

The new road design required use of the southeast corner of the tree farm, closest to the El Jebel stoplight. The tree farm – which was acquired by Eagle and Pitkin counties in a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service – was used for the road project even though no public hearing was held.

The 128-acre tree farm was acquired to provide space for a government office building and community center, recreational facilities and to preserve open space. Reconfiguration of Valley Road wasn’t part of the plan.

The improvements were necessary because growth approved along Valley Road has pushed traffic volumes to a level that couldn’t be handled easily by the existing road, said Eagle County Assistant Administrator George Roussos.

The road work will create more “stacking” for vehicles turning onto Highway 82 from Valley Road, said Roussos. Previously, a short straightaway was inadequate to absorb the traffic coming from the frontage road to the highway, particularly when high volumes of cars were leaving City Market and the Orchard Plaza commercial center.

Sidewalks and other enhancements for pedestrians will also be included in the project, he said.

Although residents of the area felt road improvements were necessary, the work was undertaken without taking into account how future use of the tree farm could affect traffic flow and circulation in the area.

Eagle County intends to build a 15,000-square-foot government office building and community center on the southeast corner of the property in 2001. In addition, it is reviewing a plan for recreational facilities that could attract hundreds of users to the tree farm daily.

Roussos said the improvements to Valley Road were needed independently of the tree farm development. He would not concede that public hearings on the tree farm plan may identify road requirements that are different from what Eagle County has undertaken.

Midvalley residents haven’t had a chance yet to review the access plan for the tree farm from Valley Road.

Meanwhile, work on Valley Road is scheduled to continue through the end of October. Valley Road is scheduled to remain closed that entire time west of the intersection with Highway 82.

However, the contractor was able to keep traffic flowing through one of the busiest intersections in the midvalley even though the asphalt has been torn and vehicles must travel on dirt.


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