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The Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) chose the Preferred Alternative (PA) because they found that it best met the 10 Project Objectives the community and elected officials identified and it fulfilled the project’s purpose and need. The Preferred Alternative was chosen after years of analysis which took into account such things as traffic congestion, traffic forecasts, safety, the environment, and costs, to name just a few of the considerations.
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A Preferred Alternative (PA) is part of and described in a Record of Decision (ROD). An alternative is determined to be the Preferred Alternative if it best meets the purpose and need of the project. The Preferred Alternative is determined during the environmental review process and documented in the Record of Decision.
CDOT and the FHWA determined that the Preferred Alternative met the project need, intent, and 10 objectives.
Increases future transit options like trackless trams or driverless buses.
Provides better emergency access and evacuation routes.
Reduces accident rates on the S-Curves.
Increases transit capacity while decreasing transit time with continuous bus lanes from the roundabout to downtown.
Eliminates the S-Curves so traffic will move more smoothly without the two, ninety-degree turns.
Creates direct access in and out of town due to a straighter alignment.
Creates an open space corridor connecting Marolt-Thomas Open Space to the Aspen Golf Course.
Creates a trail connection from the Marolt Bridge to the golf course that is uninterrupted by roadways.
Decreases traffic and congestion in the West End and Cemetery Lane neighborhoods.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for the State Highway 82 (SH 82) Entrance to Aspen project began in January 1994. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was released for public review and comment in August of 1995. The DEIS evaluated three alternatives between Buttermilk and Maroon Creek Road, and seven alternatives between Maroon Creek Road and the intersection of 7th and Main Street. As a result of comments on the DEIS from community members and other local partners, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) expanded the analysis to include new alternatives and extend the project limits to Rubey Park in Aspen. The Supplemental Draft EIS (SDEIS) evaluated three additional alternatives between Pitkin County Airport and Rubey Park. The SDEIS was released in July of 1996. In August of 1997, the final EIS was released. The Record of Decision (ROD) was developed as an output of the final EIS. The ROD, which includes the Preferred Alternative, was released in August of 1998.
The Preferred Alternative is the approved option; it is not a silver bullet.
Travel times for general-use vehicles will improve by a couple of minutes, but will not solve the traffic or congestion problems.
The Preferred Alternative will increase travel times from Cemetery Lane to the hospital, Aspen schools, and Aspen Highlands.
The Preferred Alternative requires the existing Castle Creek Bridge to be repaired and eventually replaced to provide traffic access to Cemetery Lane and McLain Flats. It will also serve as a second exit from town.
Nine travel modes were analyzed before the Preferred Alternative was selected. These included:
The community did not vote on the Record of Decision (ROD) or the Preferred Alternative that is included in the ROD.
The foundation of the Preferred Alternative, as described in the 1998 ROD, was the 1996 voter approval of all of the elements that became the Preferred Alternative - such as the right of way through the Marolt and Thomas properties - with one exception: the 1996 vote approved two lanes for all vehicles, one in each direction, and light rail.
In the 1998 ROD, the Preferred Alternative included an interim step before a light rail, allowing for a light rail system to be developed initially as exclusive bus lanes if local support and/or funding were not available. While the 1998 ROD, which contains the Preferred Alternative, was approved by Aspen City Council, the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners, and Snowmass Town Council, Aspen voters still need to approve the use of buses because buses were not included in the 1996 ballot language - only the light rail.
Yes. In a 1996 election, Aspen voters authorized Aspen City Council to convey the right of way across the Thomas Property for a two-lane highway, one lane in each direction, and a corridor for light rail. The Aspen voters will need to approve the use of buses over Marolt and Thomas properties. The specific timing of a vote has not been determined.
The process for design and construction could take up to 12 years.
The Record of Decision was intended as a phased approach. Elements that have been completed as of 2022 include:
In addition, the City of Aspen implemented additional programs with the intent of increasing the use of alternative modes of transportation. These include:
The next phase of the ROD is the Highway 82 realignment and a new Castle Creek Bridge.
First, in 1981 the right of way was platted across the Marolt property for the extension of Highway 82. In 1996, voters approved using the right of way through the Marolt and Thomas properties for a two-lane parkway, one lane in each direction for any vehicle, and light rail. The 1996 voter approval included a provision to replace the Marolt and Thomas open space with open space of equal value and equal or more significant acreage to replace any net loss in open space. Mills Property, 39.6 acres of open space located along the Roaring Fork River behind the Brush Creek Intercept Lot, was acquired to fulfill the replacement requirement.
CDOT and FHWA are involved in the New Castle Creek Bridge project because Highway 82 is a state highway that also receives federal funding. Both organizations have to be involved in the decision making process. SH 82 is part of the National Highway System. In addition, SH 82 crosses federal waters (Maroon Creek and Castle Creek), which mandates that the FHWA be involved. While Aspen voters can veto or accept whatever ballot issues arise related to the Entrance to Aspen, the state and federal governments’ process is to produce a Record of Decision (ROD) with a Preferred Alternative that identifies and mitigates environmental impacts.
Because Castle Creek Bridge, built in 1961 and designed to last 75 years, is nearing the end of its useful life, we believe the choice before the community is: 1) Build the Preferred Alternative (PA); or 2) Don't build the Preferred Alternative. However, if the community does not want to build the preferred alternative AND wants to explore another alternative, it will require opening the Record of Decision (ROD) or creating new ROD. It is estimated, in 2022 dollars, that that process will cost about $8 million and take four to eight years to complete, depending on which of the other alternatives the community wanted to pursue.
Yes and no. It depends on the extent of the modification. Small design changes can be handled through a reevaluation however larger changes such as use and alignment would require a new Record of Decision.
Some residential properties will be impacted. The City does not know the precise location of the bridge and the extent of the impact to residential properties until there has been further design and additional study of the Preferred Alternative, which is the next step that has been authorized by Council.
Property acquisition will follow the federal Uniform Act process. In most cases, the first step in acquisition is determination of value through appraisal of all real property that needs to be obtained for the project. Acquisition of real property can include the entire parcel, only a portion of the property, or a specific type of interest such as a permanent or temporary easement.
Yes. According to the City's Attorney's Office, the City of Aspen voters will need to approve the uses of buses on the right of way. Currently the right of way usage only includes a general purpose lane in each direction and the use of light rail.
The Aspen City Council will decide when it is optimal to put the project on the ballot.
Transit stop locations and routes will need to be evaluated to determine the needed services for these neighborhoods.
There will be a light at this intersection however how the intersection will look will need to be evaluated at a later stage in the project
This design detail has not been finalized, however, there will be vehicle and ADA access to the museum.
This design detail will be developed during the schematic design development. The City of Aspen plans to work closely with the Open Space and Trails Board as well as the Parks Department and the community to develop a plan for the summer and winter trails.
Yes. The possibility of two land bridges is being considered.
They will go to the 7th/Main Street light and take a left onto 7th to go through the S-Curves. During the next phase of the project, a traffic study and origin and destination study will provide additional information about the specifics related to the future traffic timing.
It will not solve congestion. It is a transit-oriented solution that will improve transit timing.
It will impact the experience of driving into Aspen. Exactly how will be determined by the final design and construction plans.
An option for four lanes was considered during the review of the 43 options considered during the Environmental Impact Statement. Four lanes of unrestricted traffic didn't meet the community-based planning goals and because it didn't include the incentive for transit and carpooling which are critical to maintaining the 1993 traffic levels.
CDOT will make sure the traveling public is safe at all times and will do so in a fiscally responsible manner.
Yes. The current bridge will be the way the Cemetery Lane and McLane Flats residents get into town. Once the new bridge is built the original bridge will be repaired.
If the Preferred Alternative is built Power Plant Road will remain the same. If the existing bridge is reconstructed it will need to be rerouted and rebuilt do accommodate traffic during construction that could be from 18-24 months long.
The project to develop design documents and build the Preferred Alternative is estimated to be 8-12 years.
Yes. CDOT will continue to do repairs to keep it safe for the traveling public.