CARBONDALE — Plans to build a better connection between the town and a popular hike-and-bike trail, known as the Red Hill Special Recreation Management Area, took a crucial step last week when the town received the final report on the idea from a team of five consulting firms, recommending a tunnel under State Highway 82 and a 6-foot trail alongside Garfield County Road 107 (Red Hill Road.)
The project, which is still in the planning stages, would involve building a new, safer crossing of Highway 82 for cyclists and pedestrians than currently exists; a separate trail along approximately 1,400 feet of CR 107, which leads northward from the intersection of Highways 82 and 133, up to and past the Red Hill trailhead; a pedestrian bridge across the Roaring Fork River just east of the existing automobile bridge; and connections to trails leading into town or to the Gateway Park on the west side of Highway 133.
A lengthy process of community meetings and analysis favored what is known as Option 2, which involves construction of an 8-foot separated bike-pedestrian trail across mostly private land along CR 107, requiring purchase of easements, at least, across the private property. The report cites concerns among those involved in the planning process that the cost of Option 2, about $1.15 million, is out of reach at this time.
Instead, the consultants picked an “interim solution” that calls for construction of the 6-foot trail right alongside the road, separated by a guardrail from auto traffic on the road. This option is estimated to cost approximately $750,000, and would involve construction of retaining walls to support the trail and the road that would reach heights of 12 feet or so.
The proposal to tunnel under Highway 82, which is outlined in a different part of the consultants’ report, is expected to cost another $750,000, according to the report. In comparison, safety improvements to the “at-grade” crossing of Highway 82, which is what exists now, would cost about $147,000, according to the report.
Town Recreation Director Jeff Jackel confirmed that the tunnel might follow the existing alignment of an old cattle tunnel under the highway, just upstream from the Highway 133 bridge. That tunnel, which in the past couple of decades had been used by transients and the homeless seeking shelter from the weather, has been blocked at both ends but could be reopened for this purpose and enlarged to meet state standards, Jackel said.
A third part of the overall project, construction of a bike-pedestrian bridge over the Roaring Fork River using existing stone abutments just upstream from the present Highway 133 bridge over the river, would cost approximately $325,000, according to the report.
The final part of the project, trail connections from the planned new bridge to the existing Highway 133 auto bridge and Cowan Drive, as well as to the Gateway Park just downstream from the 133 bridge, would cost $1.75 million if built today, not counting any additional costs for acquiring private property or easements for the trails, the report concluded.
That puts the total cost of the project at approximately $3.4 million, and possibly more, according to the report, although Jackel told the Post Independent on Monday that “this GOCO [Great Outdoors Colorado] grant application [if awarded] won’t come anywhere near [the money needed] to complete the entire project.”
Jackel said that he had been working with Garfield County planner Tamra Allen to write grant proposals to GOCO, which provides funding to recreation-related projects, and that the state had agreed to accept a “full-blown GOCO Paths to Parks” application for grant money to build the project.
In addition, Jackel said, Garfield County has agreed to kick in $750,000 for the improvements alongside CR 107.
Jackel is scheduled to present his proposed 2014 recreation budget to the board of trustees on Nov. 5, according to an agenda for that meeting, and part of that discussion is expected to center on Jackel’s work with Garfield County to submit the “Paths to Parks” grant, which is due on March 5, 2014, according to a memo submitted to the town administration by Jackel.
He said notification of the grant awards is not expected until June of next year.
The consultants picked an “interim solution” that calls for construction of a 6-foot trail right alongside the road, separated by a guardrail from auto traffic on the road.