Aspen is a city under siege with construction projects, torn up roads |

Aspen is a city under siege with construction projects, torn up roads

Night work construction on Mill Street in Aspen on Friday.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

When it comes to replacing the sewer line at Mill Street, it’s all about flow — both in terms of traffic and human waste.

Since May 1, crews have been working in the middle of the night and the wee hours of the morning to prevent backups above and below the surface.

From 7 p.m. until 7 a.m., traffic is alternated one way on North Mill Street with flaggers. During the day, there’s two-way traffic. Rio Grande westbound is closed for the entire duration of the project, which is expected to last until May 25.

The night work also is necessitated by the fact that fewer people are flushing during that time so crews can work safely, said Hamilton Tharp, the collection system superintendent for the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District.

Too much waste traveling through the “deficient” pipe while it’s being worked on could spell disaster, he added.

“We’re installing a bypass pumping system. It can’t fail,” Tharp said of the $285,000 project. “The flows are lighter at night.”

The sewer line serves Obermeyer Place, the Rio Grande parking garage area and, eventually, the new Aspen Police Department public safety building and Pitkin County’s administrative offices, which are under construction.

The same sewer line was under construction at Rio Grande Place last spring, which caused traffic and circulation headaches at the parking garage. It was emergency work that needed to be done after a subcontractor on the public safety building accidentally drilled into the line and let grout flow in.

Tharp said he expects crews to be done working on Mill Street by the end of the week, and then the focus will shift to Rio Grande Place where work will be done during the day.

“I know they are trying to get out of Mill Street as soon as possible,” he said, acknowledging that the roadway, which serves as an artery to the Clark’s Market area, the post office, Red Mountain and the east end neighborhood, has had its fair share of work done to it in recent years.

However, it hasn’t been all sanitation district work.

There have been 43 permits pulled for work being done in the right-of-way on Mill Street since 2010, according to the city’s engineering department.

About half of them have been city-initiated projects, like stormwater work to keep the river free of pollution and water-line replacements, along with more intensive ones like the multi-year effort to improve sidewalks, crossings and bike lanes, and the overhaul of Galena Plaza, which closed Mill Street for a portion of 2016.

Couple all that with major construction projects, including the renovation and expansion of the library, a new Jerome Professional building and the current Hotel Jerome expansion.