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Aspen’s Main Street may become a walk in the park

Carolyn Sackariason
csack@aspentimes.com
Aspen, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyAn image of what the intersections near Paepcke Park, left, and the Sardy House would look like under a proposal to install landscaped medians and other traffic-calming measures as ways to improve pedestrian safety on Aspen's Main Street.
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ASPEN, Colorado ” A $3.1 million Main Street in Aspen, Colorado overhaul is being proposed with center medians, prominent crosswalks and the elimination of some left-turn lanes.

The changes to Aspen’s historic street are designed to increase pedestrian safety along the 14-block stretch, where cars and foot traffic are often in conflict.

The plan calls for planted medians to be installed in the center lane between 7th and 5th streets, near Paepcke Park between Garmich and Aspen streets, and between Galena and Spring streets.

The Aspen City Council reviewed the plan Tuesday and directed city parks officials to continue forward with their work.

However, the Historic Preservation Commission would prefer that the proposal be stopped in its tracks. Commission members, who argue they have final say over the project because Main Street is in a historic district, don’t support the proposal as presented.

They criticized the idea of raised landscaped medians in the center of Main Street because they are too urban and would be “completely out of historic character of a wide-open corridor flanked by” tall cottonwood trees.

According to the city’s code, the commission has the final say over such a decision, City Attorney John Worcester said. The City Council has the power to call up the decision within 30 days if elected officials determine the commission’s decision was a denial of due process, or the commission was out of jurisdiction or abused its discretion.

Worcester suggested the city’s community development department interpret the code and make a decision on which board has the final decision.

A public open house on the plan will be held Jan. 28 in council chambers in the basement of Aspen’s City Hall, between 5 and 7 p.m.

The project would be paid for out of a pedestrian amenity fund, which came from a payment by the Limelight Lodge in lieu of providing public amenities.

Tyler Christoff, a project manager for the city’s engineering department, said the impetus for the plan was that most residents don’t feel safe crossing Main Street, and medians create traffic-calming measures that slow motorists.

The changes would happen within the existing roadway, and left-turn lanes would be eliminated at every other intersection, where the medians are proposed.

Nick Senn, of Schmueser Gordon Meyer engineering consultants, said the Colorado Department of Transportation has to sign off on the plan, and the design team must prove traffic won’t be incapacitated.

CDOT has reviewed the proposal, and its engineers are the ones who suggested certain intersections be closed to turning traffic, Senn said, adding officials were receptive to the plan.

City engineer Tricia Aragon said if car trips exceed 9,000 a day, traffic-engineering standards suggest raised crosswalks to ensure pedestrian safety. Main Street sees 27,000 cars a day. Aragon also noted that medians create a refuge for pedestrians.

“We really tried to make pedestrian movement as important as vehicle movement, not secondary at all,” said Aspen parks director Jeff Woods.

Changes to Main Street could begin with a demonstration project that has medians at two or three blocks, which would cost $700,000. Woods noted that construction for the entire project could be completed in two or three months during the offseason.

csack@aspentimes.com


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