Aspen wants to make crossing Main Street safer
ASPEN – The Aspen City Council plans to tackle the decades-long dilemma of how to make Main Street safer for people to walk across.
The council earlier this week directed staff to form a citizen committee to come up with possible solutions to decrease the likelihood that someone could get injured or even killed while trying to cross several sections of the city’s main thoroughfare.
But it’s not as if solutions haven’t been presented or committees haven’t been formed. Over the years, many ideas have been floated but they either didn’t get the support of previous city councils, or didn’t get the approval from the Colorado Department of Transportation, which oversees the state highway.
And the public hasn’t always been behind the numerous proposed solutions either.
That was the case earlier this year when the city engineering department proposed a $3.1 million Main Street overhaul, complete with center medians, raised crosswalks, plantings, lighting and the elimination of some left-turn lanes.
While the council voiced support for it, the public did not, so the plan was scraped.
The Historic Preservation Commission, which has a final say over any plan because Main Street is in a historic district, also didn’t support the proposal. Board members said center medians were too urban, and a change that “was completely out of historic character of a wide open corridor flanked by tall cottonwood trees.”
The latest proposal is to design and construct two alternative material crosswalks, which the city’s engineering department is seeking request for proposals from private companies.
The council this past Tuesday directed City Engineer Trish Aragon and project manager Tyler Christoff to pursue colored concrete or an alternative material in pedestrian crossing zones, which are designed to provide visual delineation for motorists. Aragon and Christoff have recommended installations at Garmisch Street working west, and at Hunter Street working east.
City engineers said CDOT has reacted favorably to the concept. However, city engineers acknowledge that the crosswalks may be difficult to see in the winter and deterioration is possible as a result of snowplowing.
The council also directed city engineers to form a citizen’s Main Street pedestrian safety committee. Residents who have expressed interest in the past about safety on Main Street will be contacted, and the formation of the committee will be advertised in local newspapers seeking applicants.
“We hear this over and over again that it’s dangerous … I think those people are right,” said Mayor Mick Ireland. “It’s a big deal in a small town.”
Ireland noted that perhaps the most dangerous section of Main Street, also known as Highway 82, is at 8th Street near the S-curves. The area is often icy, and the sun can blind motorists coming in and out of town.
“We really have to bear down on this,” he said, joking that that section could be owned by a personal injury law firm.
Councilman Torre agreed that fixing Main Street should be a priority.
“This is an issue that has to be tackled,” he said. “We have to do something that slows traffic because people aren’t paying attention.”