Work on midvalley underpass will delay traffic on Highway 82

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

BASALT – Highway 82 commuters will face about six weeks of delays and slow going in the midvalley starting Tuesday, when work begins on a pedestrian underpass serving Willits Town Center.

Downvalley traffic will be diverted onto specially built detour lanes Tuesday, according to a memo written by Basalt Public Works Director Bentley Henderson to the Basalt Town Council. Upvalley traffic will be diverted onto the detour lanes April 1, Henderson wrote.

The detour lanes appear to be about 100 yards long. They will divert highway traffic in front of Whole Foods Market.

The lanes were constructed last fall in advance of the underpass construction. They are designed to keep traffic flowing without the complete stops that would be necessary if traffic remained on the highway during construction of the underpass.

Even so, commuters can expect snarls at certain times of the day.

“On the two days when traffic is being switched, there will likely be a single lane closure that could delay traffic, although the closure will be during non-peak traffic hours per Highway 82 lane closure policies,” Henderson’s memo said. “While traffic is using the detours, the speed limit will be reduced to 35 mph through the construction zone.”

The underpass was approved as part of a $46 million expansion project being undertaken by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. New bus stops will be built on both sides of Highway 82. The underpass allows bus riders to safely go from the downvalley-bound stop to Willits.

The cost of the underpass is being shared by the town of Basalt, the Willits Town Center developer and RFTA. The final budgeted amount wasn’t available Sunday.

Most of the precast sections of the underpass were scheduled to be installed during April, according to Henderson.

“Traffic is scheduled to be moved back to the main highway between May 1 and May 6,” he wrote.

Work will continue in May on the ends of and approaches to the underpass. The project is supposed to be completed by June 1. The work on the bus stations will continue during the summer.