Aspen bus lanes now open |

Aspen bus lanes now open

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/Aspen TimesA Roaring Fork Transportation Agency bus makes a ceremonial first run in the upvalley bus lane on Aspen's new Maroon Creek Bridge on Monday.

ASPEN, Colorado ” Amid much back patting among local and state officials, and one last flurry of honking horns and a few one-finger salutes from frustrated motorists, the Maroon Creek Bridge and new bus lanes on Highway 82 on the outskirts of Aspen, Colorado were formally opened Monday.

Monday afternoon’s commuters will be the first to travel on the newly reconfigured highway between the Maroon Creek Road roundabout and Buttermilk ” a stretch that now features two lanes for general traffic and two that are dedicated to bus travel.

The bus lanes, which allow Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses to slip past what is likely to be a clogged lane of private vehicles and construction trucks at certain times of the day, will “revolutionize transit in the upper Roaring Fork Valley,” said RFTA President and CEO Dan Blankenship.

On Monday, though, traffic was stopped in both directions, on either end of the bridge, to accommodate a ribbon cutting and a ceremonial first bus trip on the upvalley bus lane ” staged events that some stuck motorists did not appreciate.

Construction of the $9 million bus lanes began last April and wrapped up about a month ahead of schedule, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. Work on the new bridge began in late June 2005 and was originally supposed to be done a year ago. Utility relocation forced an extension of the project and the span opened with one lane of traffic in each direction last July. Workers removed the last of the traffic cones Monday morning, opening the 73-foot-wide bridge deck in its entirety to coincide with the debut of the bus lanes.

The bridge construction cost nearly $14 million and the entire bridge project, including utility relocation and design, cost about $17 million.

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