Woody Creek gas line route still unclear
Construction of a new gas line along McLain Flats Road will begin soon, though it will start on the Aspen side to provide time for a possibly less impactful route on the Woody Creek end.
The temporary solution was reached Tuesday morning at a Pitkin Board of County Commissioners meeting after a Black Hills Energy representative proposed a last-minute route change that avoids the project’s most difficult section.
Black Hills has been working on installing a backup gas line into Aspen since 2005 and wants to complete the fourth and final stage of it this summer. That final stage runs from the “Y” intersection of Smith Way, Upper River Road and McLain Flats Road in Woody Creek to Trentaz Drive along McLain Flats on its way toward Cemetery Lane and Aspen.
As a utility, Black Hills has the right under Colorado law to use the road right-of-way to install the gas line. The company is waiting for Pitkin County to issue the permit for the work, which is scheduled to last from later this month until October and will drop McLain Flats Road to one lane for much of that time.
Woody Creek Caucus members, however, have suggested using the Rio Grande Trail for some of the pipeline’s route into Aspen as a way to shorten the project’s traffic impacts. Black Hills attempted to make that work, but could not because the pipeline would have to be routed back up to McLain Flats across a piece of property with an easement forbidding such a use, Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said Tuesday.
That appeared to seal McLain Flats as the project’s go-to route Tuesday, until a Black Hills project supervisor offered a third alternative. Cliff Dick said the company might be able to move its pressure-regulation station from Jaffee Park to the Rio Grande Trail east of the “Y” intersection, then run the pipeline down the trail until it crosses McLain Flats.
From there, the line would continue along the shoulder of McLain Flats to Trentaz Drive, he said.
Provided that solution works — and no engineering or planning has gone into it yet — it would require an approximately 20-day closure of the Rio Grande Trail, while shedding as much as a month from the McLain Flats construction and traffic delays, Dick said.
Pitkin County Board Chairman Greg Poschman said he’d like to see if that solution might work. His colleague, Commissioner George Newman, said he would not support an option that closed the Rio Grande Trail during the summer biking season.
To give county staff and Black Hills time to work out the pipeline’s route on the western end, county officials decided to allow work to begin on the eastern section starting at Trentaz Drive, a section that must be built no matter what. The permit for the work will be issued in the upcoming days, said Brian Pettet, the county’s public works director.
The route up from the “Y” intersection is considered the pipeline’s most difficult section because it must be placed directly under the road and because the road is narrow and rocky and winds up a hill.
This wasn’t my best work. I still stand by my original picks to win each of the snowboard contests at X Games Aspen 2023, but fate chose poorly. The main lesson? Don’t pick against Mark McMorris, Marcus Kleveland or Scotty James, unless you have a very good reason.