Who says recycling doesn’t pay? Pitkin County finds new use for old asphalt from airport

County saves big bucks by using material at Brush Creek lot

Nearly 5,400 tons of asphalt was relocated from the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport to the Brush Creek Lot off of Highway 82 on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport’s intended loss is the Brush Creek parking lot’s unexpected gain.

Asphalt being shaved from the taxiway, tarmac and runway at the airport is being recycled to cover a gravel lot at the intersection of Brush Creek Road and Highway 82. The recycling will save Pitkin County “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said public works director Brian Pettet.

The initial plan was to haul the shaved material, called millings, to the landfill from the airport. There it would have been piled, stored and used as projects arose.

Instead, the airport, public works and road and bridge department teamed to divert the millings straight to the Brush Creek lot. Pettet said about 5,400 tons of asphalt are being removed from the airport. About 200 tons will be retained for various projects there. That leaves 5,200 tons for use elsewhere by the county. Most of that will be used at the Brush Creek lot.

Pettet said an existing gravel lot that is 550 feet by 200 feet will be covered, or about 110,000 square feet. Dump trucks are transporting the material. Two graders are spreading it and then a roller is compressing it.

The asphalt is compressing surprisingly well, Pettet said. He is uncertain how long it will hold up.

“We’ll assess it over time,” Pettet said. “With this, it’s wait-and-see. Right now it looks fantastic.”

He credited the experienced road and bridge staff the applying the expertise to make the plan work.

If the material lasts for five years, that defers a major expense for the county, he noted. Whenever it has to be replaced, it provides an excellent base that will help an upper layer last longer, he said.

The recycling project is saving money is numerous ways. First, it saves the airport money because of the reduced hauling distance to the Brush Creek lot rather than the dump. Second, it saves the county money from storing and eventually hauling the millings out of the dump. And third, it’s helping Pitkin County stretch its dollars further with the Brush Creek lot revamp.

Covering the Brush Creek gravel lot with fresh asphalt would cost a minimum of $15 per ton plus the grading work, Pettet said. Avoiding that expense produces the major savings.

The savings will allow Pitkin County to devote funds to new bathrooms and associated water and sewage treatment at the lot. The plan is to improve the lot to make it more attractive to commuters who would use it for bus rides into Aspen and Snowmass Village.

Meanwhile, the repaving at the airport and other maintenance will be finished by May 16.

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