Snowmass Village eyes improvements for pedestrians at Highline Road, Brush Creek

Widened shoulders could give people more breathing room on busy town roads

A woman walks on the shoulder of Highline Road in Snowmass Village on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The town of Snowmass Village has its eyes on some safety improvements on Highline Road and a section of Brush Creek Road that will give pedestrians and cyclists a little more room to breathe on the side of the road.

Public Works Director Anne Martens presented a project update at a May 16 Town Council meeting.

Both Highline and the stretch of Brush Creek between Divide Road and the Snowmass Mall known as the “Donny White Curve” are frequented by pedestrians heading between residential areas and the town’s commercial and recreational hubs as well as cyclists on road rides through the town; both also have narrow paved shoulders and steep drop-offs.

The plans for Highline Road include the construction of a 4-foot asphalt shoulder along the side of the road wherever possible and restriping the existing drive lanes to be about 11 feet wide (the lanes are currently between 11 and 11.5 feet wide, Martens said). Some safety delineators could be placed in strategic locations.

In four or five sections where the side of the road is “extremely steep,” the town may need to build platforms to maintain the 4-foot shoulder, Martens said. If those costs are outside of the budget, the shoulder may be narrower in some sections. The town has budgeted $250,000 for the project and the current estimate is within budget, according to an agenda summary in this week’s council packet. The cost will be confirmed when the project is out to bid.

The plans for the Brush Creek Road section known as the Donny White Curve focus on building a 6-foot-wide striped shoulder on the outside of the curve that would be protected by delineators year-round, according to the agenda summary and Martens’ presentation. Driving lanes would go down to 11 feet; they’re currently “12 feet or sometimes more,” Martens said.

Why “Donny White”?

The curve of Brush Creek Road between Divide Road and the Snowmass Mall is sometimes referred to as the “Donny White Curve” in town documents and council discussions. But even Public Works Director Anne Martens, who was presenting on the improvements Monday night, said at the meeting that she wasn’t entirely sure how it got its name.

Councilman Tom Goode, who said he used to play flag football with White in the 1970s, offered one explanation: “I think maybe the history of that particular turn is, Donny went off the road there, and for some reason … it stuck,” he said.

“Thank God he’s alive and well and he lived through it, but for some reason everybody labeled that turn as the Donny White turn,” Goode added.

The town has budgeted $660,000 for the Donny White Curve improvements and engineers are still refining the estimate for alignment on the outside curve. Though alignment on the inside of the curve would be shorter, it could cost two-and-a-half times the price of the outer curve due to some safety considerations and the steepness of the slope.

Council members have long expressed safety concerns about those sections of the roadways, and a draft Community Connectivity Plan lists improvements to the connections in both areas as “first tier” priorities for the implementation of trail and walkway projects.

The projects Martens presented Monday night are slightly different from the priorities in the Community Connectivity Plan, which mention ideas for a walkway along Highline Road and a “shortcut” between the Mountain View housing complex on Brush Creek Road and the Snowmass Mall.

(The widened shoulder on Highline would likely be an extension of the asphalt with some selectively placed delineators, but wouldn’t be a separate walkway altogether; the platform along the Donny White Curve won’t really be a shortcut, but would improve safety on the route.)

That connectivity plan, which has been in the works for years but got caught up in the details, is now approaching the finish line: Town Manager Clint Kinney said at this week’s meeting that an ordinance could come back to council for adoption of the plan in “the very, very near future.”