Aspen City Council approved a plan to implement parking reconfiguration and temporary intersection improvements in downtown Aspen at its work session on Monday.
City staff presented a plan that would reconfigure Galena Street to allow for parallel parking, bike lanes and a widened sidewalk while converting Galena to a one-way street running south from Hyman Avenue. The plan would also implement temporary curb extensions at four intersections in the downtown core to study driver-pedestrian interactions. The plan would implement the projects by May 2022. Council expressed support for moving forward but had concerns about the best way to achieve the city’s goals.
“I’d love to see this moving forward, I just have a lot of concerns and questions about how we put it in place,” Aspen Mayor Torre said. “I’d love to see some examples, and then I have some questions about incremental implementations, but I think you guys are on the right path.”
The plan presented by the city would place 44 parking spaces on the Galena corridor on one side of the street, with a protected bike lane on the other side and widened sidewalks on both sides of the street. Council was supportive of the intention, but unsure of the best way to get there. Torre asked to see renderings of different scenarios, such as putting the bike lane on the other side of the street.
The plan also leads to other questions. Council members asked whether emergency vehicles or shared transportation would be able to access Galena, as well as what bikers could do to increase their own safety. Councilmember Skippy Mesirow said he has recently sought and received lots of feedback from residents who say they would like to see a more pedestrian-friendly downtown core, and the community is ready to see that happen.
According to staff’s presentation, 88% of respondents to a safety and mobility survey from earlier this summer said that they support testing changes to downtown pedestrian, bike and vehicle safety, including potential parking impacts.
“I really look forward to a future of a walkable downtown core,” Mesirow said. “It will be better for our sense of community, for our environment, our safety, our mental health, our sense of place — and the question is just how we get there.”
City staff agreed to look deeper into transportation programming and its impacts, alternative parking reconfigurations and mitigation.
Council also discussed examining pedestrian safety beyond the downtown core. Mike Triplett, a resident of West Smuggler Street, approached council to speak on behalf of the West End Pedestrian Safety Group, a group he created in January that has now grown to more than 70 members. Triplett asked council for suggestions on how to solve the issue of traffic congestion in the West End, which he said leads to safety issues and environmental hazard risks on weekday evenings.
“I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen here tonight,” Triplett said. “It seems like there’s a real collaborative, sort of working relationship between what you guys have asked staff to do and what staff has produced, and quite frankly, we would like to see something similar.”
Mesirow said that council’s responsibility is to focus first on where in-town pedestrian safety is at the greatest risk, and then learn where it can be improved elsewhere. Councilmember John Doyle asked Triplett if the group would be interested in installing sidewalks in the West End.
“I’d be willing to take ideas back to them and talk to the group about that,” Triplett said. “The fear I have is I don’t think that that solves the problem because we still fundamentally have a huge traffic problem.”
The city will move forward with the downtown plan and report back to council at a later meeting with more information about how solutions may be implemented.