City officials are honing in on a solution to rectify the cluster that occurs between pedestrians, motorists, buses and skier shuttles at the intersection in front of gondola plaza.
Four different alternatives are being considered, which all involve putting the emphasis on pedestrians and making the intersection an extension of gondola plaza, said Tyler Christoff, project manager with the city’s engineering department.
The city hired Design Workshop last year for $69,500 to consult on the project, which is estimated to cost a total of $283,000. So far, $29,067.51 has been spent on the consultant team, which also includes engineers and traffic experts.
The often hectic scene at the intersection has been on City Hall’s radar for at least three years, but any improvements are still a work in progress.
The crossing at Hunter Street and Durant Avenue has been described by the city as being in “poor condition.” Access for persons with disabilities can be challenging, and stormwater drainage improvements are needed. Traffic, including numerous buses each hour, and all the skiers and snowboarders coming to and from the gondola make conditions “almost dangerous,” according to city officials.
The city held a site visit for the public this past fall, attended by about 40 people, including business owners and Aspen Skiing Co. officials, who have a stake because the SkiCo owns gondola plaza. A second open house at City Hall drew about a dozen people who opined on what should be done.
Christoff said four alternatives were floated and the majority who weighed in said they preferred an option that includes a raised intersection, similar to what is in front of the Wheeler Opera House on Mill Street.
“There would be no step off the curb,” Christoff said. “It would give awareness for motorists that this is a pedestrian area.”
The raised intersection would allow the gondola plaza and sidewalks on the north side of Durant to be flush with each other. The intersection also would be paved in brick shades to indicate it’s an extension of the plaza and cars take a back seat.
“Bulb-outs” also would be installed at each corner of the intersection, effectively narrowing the roads to 24 feet. Hunter Street is around 49 feet wide at the intersection and Durant Avenue is around 40 feet. The bulb-outs would shorten the crossing distance, create better visual recognition and calm traffic. The parking configuration would remain largely unchanged in the area, Christoff said.
Two 12-foot-wide lanes in each direction is a standard width, he noted. Western towns typically have larger-than-needed roads and there’s room to downsize in the case of the gondola plaza intersection.
“Putting a road on a diet of some sort can really help,” he said.
Another option is to have a curbed intersection with ramps that are designated with colored concrete crosswalks.
Both designs include the option of putting “rain gardens” near the corners of the intersection to manage stormwater runoff. And both alternatives suggest that the bus stop currently on the northeast corner directly in front of Pomeroy Sports be relocated to the northwest side to better direct people to cross behind the shuttle.
City officials also are looking at ways to improve the loading, pick-up and transit activities that occur at the intersection.
Based on feedback from the open houses this past fall, Christoff said engineering staff are looking at further options, which include crosswalk signals, snowmelt or another method to make the street crossing less slick and icy. He did note, however, that the costs associated with the latter could be prohibitive.
Christoff said he expects the design to be finalized in the upcoming months and presented to Aspen City Council. Construction could be done in the fall, before next ski season.
“If we can get good public buy-in and council buy-in then we would construct this year,” he said.
The project is outlined on the city’s website under “Open City Hall,” a relatively new forum where the public can interact with elected officials and city staff on various topics. A summary of the project is there, as well as the option to comment on it and read what others have written. Currently, there are about a half dozen comments on the project, one of which suggests an underpass at the intersection. That, Christoff acknowledged, would cost far more than what the budget calls for.
For more information, log onto http://www.aspenpitkin.com/Departments/Community-Relations/Open-City-Hal... .