Red Hill rec area access plan in home stretch |

Red Hill rec area access plan in home stretch

John ColsonPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

CARBONDALE, Colorado – Officials here hope they may soon solve a puzzle that has resisted solution for decades – what to do to make the intersection of State Highways 82 and 133 safer for ever-rising numbers of motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.And as the planning moves into the home stretch, one consultant gave a ‘napkin estimate’ of $3 million for a strictly “bare minimum” construction project.Over the last couple of decades, the Red Hill Special Recreation Management Area, to the north of the intersection, has drawn unprecedented numbers of hikers and bikers, along with their dogs, to use the trails that weave through the hills above the intersection.At the same time, Highway 82 was expanded to four lanes and traffic counts have grown exponentially, raising fears of everything from accidents to inconvenience and delays.To come up with a solution, the town last year put its staff and planning consultants to work on a way to get people from the town side of the road (south of the highway) to the north side.The planning work is being paid for by a $160,000 federal grant from the Paul Sarbanes Transit in the Parks program, which aims to reduce traffic congestion conflicts in the nation’s parks.”This intersection is widely seen as the gateway to Carbondale, and recreation is a primary activity in the area surrounding this busy intersection,” wrote consultant Kate Schwarzler, a principal with the Otak planning firm, in a March 19 memo to the Carbondale Board of Trustees.

At a meeting on March 19 in Carbondale, hosted by the Red Hill Council and the town, the team of consultants showed a number of diagrams depicting ideas gleaned from earlier meetings on the subject, including the two possible positions of a tunnel (either to the east or the west of the intersection) under the highway.The tunnel, according to engineer Bill Marcato, of the Felsburg Holt & Ullevig firm, would be a protected way for cyclists and pedestrians to get to and from the Red Hill trails without having to cross the traffic lanes of Highway 82.Another possibility, Marcato noted, is a pedestrian overpass – a single span of steel bridgework stretching from raised towers at the sides of the highway. The towers would be accessible by long ramps parallel to the roadway.An additional part of the plan is to build a trail link under the existing Highway 133 bridge spanning the Roaring Fork River, to allow access to the Carbondale trail system (including Red Hill) from the public Gateway RV/Trailer Park on the southwest corner of the intersection.

Finally, the engineers and planners are working on how to get bicyclists and hikers from the north side of the intersection to the trailhead for the Red Hill recreation area.Currently, hikers and bikers follow the narrow and winding Red Hill Road (County Road 107) for a third of a mile or so to the trailhead.The road, believed to have been built by ranchers, has been the source of complaints from recreationalists as well as residents who live in the subdivision that also is reached by CR 107.For perhaps an eighth of a mile, the road is bordered on the right (when moving upward) by a steeply climbing hillside, and on the left by an equally steep plunge to the floor of the canyon. After that, steep hillsides rise from both sides of the road.One proposal for a new trail is to build up the downslope areas below the road, to create a separate trail at the same level as the road.Another is to create a separated path, gouged into the slope downhill from CR 107.For the stretch where hills rise from both sides of the road, the idea is to widen the road and erect a barrier to keep vehicles separated from cyclists and pedestrians.Although exact cost projections have not been done yet, Josh Mehlem with the Alta planning and design firm agreed to offer a “napkin estimate” of what the overall project would cost.A tunnel or a bridge would cost approximately the same, roughly $1.2 million, Mehlem said.With the balance of the project factored in, he said, “We’re probably close to $3 million, and that’s the bare minimum,” meaning without any aesthetic design features on the structures, and without landscaping costs.The grant funding ends in May, and according to Carbondale Recreation Director Jeff Jackel, “that’s what we’re shooting for” in terms of putting a proposal before the town’s

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