Yet another light for 82? |

Yet another light for 82?

Brent Gardner-Smith

Complaints and concerns voiced by several homeowners in the North Forty housing project have prompted Pitkin County to consider adding another stoplight on Highway 82.

As part of the approval of the 71-unit neighborhood now under construction across from the Aspen Airport Business Center, the county commissioners required a new intersection be built to replace the current intersection, which often clogs up at rush hour.

But now several homeowners have asked the commissioners to revisit the decision and consider a range of options, most of which include adding another light on Highway 82.

At a work session Tuesday, the homeowners cited concerns about the new light’s location and too much traffic coming past their new neighborhood. And they got a sympathetic ear from Commissioner Patty Clapper.

“I’m really concerned about the public safety out there,” said Clapper.

And at least one North Forty homeowner is complaining about an auto center proposed at the new intersection, featuring a gas station, car wash and lube center.

After listening, the board directed county engineer Bud Eylar to take another look at intersection options in the area, including reopening the upper entrance to the business center to left-hand-turning traffic and adding a signal.

But one commissioner also flashed a yellow light.

“We have to consider what happens to Highway 82 when it becomes Colfax Avenue,” said Commissioner Mick Ireland, referring to the seemingly endless series of stoplights on one of Denver’s main drags.

In addition to a light at the relocated business center intersection, the Colorado Department of Transportation is planning a new signal at Old Stage Road and Highway 82, which is located between the two employee housing projects just downvalley from the Maroon Creek Club.

And that light will be a stone’s throw from another light at the new Owl Creek Road and 82. A temporary light was strung across the highway in that area on Tuesday.

CDOT is unenthusiastic about any more traffic signals in the area.

“We are trying to minimize the number of accesses on and off 82,” said Ralph Trapani, a senior engineer on the four-laning of Highway 82. “If Pitkin County wants to look at it, we’ll be happy to take a look at it, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t have the type of access that everybody wants and still have the traffic flow on Highway 82.”

During the review of the North Forty project, the county commissioners steadfastly refused to consider a two-stoplight solution, in part because of CDOT’s stance that it doesn’t work to put stoplights closer than 1,300 feet.

Then, the private Maroon Creek Club sued the city of Aspen to block use of the road in front of the club by future residents of the Burlingame affordable-housing development. To settle the squabble, Tom Norton, the CDOT director, personally intervened and said a stoplight just downvalley from the Owl Creek Road/Buttermilk stoplight would now be OK.

“All of a sudden that 1,300 feet just went by the wayside,” said Eylar.

But Trapani said CDOT’s standards on distances between stoplights still stands, despite Norton’s decision.

“That new intersection at Old Stage Road, from my perspective, has not created any new precedent,” Trapani said.

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