Snowmass Village council taps brakes on new roundabout ideas

Traffic at the intersection of Owl Creek and Brush Creek roads on Sept. 22. The Town of Snowmass is currently designing a roundabout to construct at this intersection.
Anna Stonehouse/Snowmass Sun

After years of going around and around about a roundabout, Snowmass Village Town Council has asked for a comprehensive look at the stretch of Brush Creek Road with three major intersections and how the trio might “change the character of the community.”

The town’s Public Works Department has been working with an engineering firm on designs for a roundabout at the three-way intersection where Owl Creek Road meets Brush Creek and makes a T.

Along with improving the traffic flow and pedestrian safety, the roundabout would be built in conjunction with utility updates for electric and other lines as well as an improved culvert for Brush Creek, which goes under the road with the same name just east of the interchange with Owl Creek Road.

At Monday night’s meeting, the council was asked to give its direction to the Public Works Department on which of two preliminary roundabout designs they might want to move forward with. One is larger than the other and includes a bypass lane.

Instead, the council again questioned the merits of the roundabout and asked for how the 0.6 mile stretch along Brush Creek Road from Sinclair to Faraway roads would look once improvements are made at pedestrian crosswalks at those two intersections, which have bus stops on both sides.

The idea for the crossings at Sinclair and Faraway roads would include medians for pedestrian crossing and greater safety.

Councilman Bob Sirkus said the larger roundabout cutting into the hill and the garden on one corner of the Brush Creek/Owl Creek intersection might be a small thing, but it goes to something bigger.

“I’m concerned that we have three intersections in very close proximity to one other … and if we only look at them in design one at a time, we have no idea what that section of road is going to look like when all three are done,” Sirkus said. “My biggest fear is we’ll look like the entrance to Eagle, where you get off the highway and you immediately have four roundabouts that you have to go through. We have the potential for the same thing to happen here and look the same way.

“I’m just going to go back to community character, and that certainly is not the community character of Snowmass Village.”

He along with Mayor Markey Butler and Councilman Tom Goode question if the roundabout is necessary at this time. The mayor said the focus should be getting more people out of their cars as the town continues to focus on its environmental impact.

“I’ve sat on council for years and always have been very supportive for years of doing something at this intersection to include roundabouts,” Butler said, referring conversations back to 2008. “The more we facilitate cars coming into this village we will never, ever get our carbon footprint to where we want to. Why are we not hearing from our staff (on) how are we going to deal with the increase of single-use vehicles coming up into the village?”

The mayor, who said the improved bus service is a start, also said there should be more public outreach to see if they feel there is a need currently for a roundabout or if people don’t mind the up to one-minute delays and backups on Owl Creek Road during peak times.

Town Manager Clint Kinney said there are delays that affect that road, mainly trying to turn left to go up toward Base Village, about 30 days a year, mostly during the ski season. But there is more involved than the left turn.

“That’s part of the argument for (a roundabout),” Kinney said. “The utilities need to be changed and improved no matter what. That work needs to be done. What we’re trying to say is if that work needs to be done, the culvert needs some attention. … So perhaps doing this all in one shot is the most effective way to do that.”

Public Works Director Anne Martens said after the meeting that the utility work is not pressing but could see things needing to be addressed in the next five years or so.

“They are all aging,” she said. “It’s not imminent it’s going to happen tomorrow, but it all needs to be addressed.”

Now, Martens will go to the design company, which already was tasked with design for the three intersections, and have them put together a complete presentation of the three together.

There is $330,000 earmarked in the budget for the roundabout design, and a separate design budget for the Sinclair and Faraway improvements, she said.

“Our hope was to do something with those two intersections still this summer or early fall, but we’ll be coming together in the next few months to talk about it,” Martens said.