Traffic analysis gets green light for city’s new housing complex at Airport Business Center

Laura Dougherty talks on a live video during an open house at the Limelight in Aspen to discuss affordable housing projects on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The city of Aspen has hired a consultant to study the traffic impacts of a planned 310-unit affordable housing complex at what is known as the Lumberyard at the Aspen Business Center.

Aspen City Council on Tuesday approved a $76,365 contract with Denver-based firm Fehr & Peers, which includes a transportation impact analysis and a transportation demand management study.

The scope of work includes analysis of transportation impacts around the ABC area and through the Highway 82 corridor.

With 432 parking spaces being planned at the Lumberyard site, along with new housing being built at the North Forty fire station and potentially at Colorado Mountain College located west of the ABC, as well as a possible larger airport across the highway, that section of the Entrance to Aspen could become a bigger pinch point for traffic than it already is.

Council members expressed their desire for a comprehensive traffic study and master planning activity for the area, with some funding coming from Pitkin County since the development area is on the edge of both jurisdictions.

“I would discourage the council from doing that,” City Manager Sara Ott said. “This is to understand impacts with your developer hat, to understand the impacts of your development on the community and while you are doing this work to decide what mitigation strategy you want to put forward to deal with that traffic impact from development.”

Chris Everson, the city’s affordable housing project manager, said part of the work is to meet requirements in the land-use code but some of it is voluntary “to satisfy many of the concerns that we’ve heard about the entirety of the area surrounding the ABC, including the Highway 82 throughput and like the city manager said, it is partly incumbent on the developer to address those community concerns.”

Fehr & Peers’ analysis will include review of prior studies of the area and any potential conflicts with them or upcoming projects, as requested by the city’s transportation and engineering departments.

Those studies include the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Entrance to Aspen Record of Decision from 1998; the Aspen Business Center interim traffic impact study results, conducted in September of 2020; the State Highway 82 Upper Valley Transit Enhancement Study Technical Report, completed this past June; the Integrated Mobility System Phase 1 and Phase 2 Analysis done in the past two years; and the Kimley-Horn-led study and design of the Highway 82/Maroon Creek Road roundabout.

Councilwoman Rachel Richards said given future development at the ABC and persistent traffic issues at the Entrance to Aspen, she would like more communication with county commissioners.

“I just think sitting down together, not one of our quarterly meetings where we put five topics in a two-hour session but really just focusing on the greater community issues and discussions and finding out face to face where we’re at … we may be able to jointly share funding going forward,” she said.

Ott said the city has offered to county officials pre-COVID to be at the table to be part of the planning process for the entire area but a formal ask from council to the board of county commissioners is appropriate at this point.

Fehr & Peers’ analysis will include planning for expected changes to the nearby transportation network, other than those at the proposed Lumberyard development.

It will account for adjacent land uses and future transportation projects including the airport master plan, fire department housing at North Forty, traffic issues south of the site at the roundabout and potential stoplights along the highway.

The city’s consulting firm will analyze six intersections in the area that connect with Highway 82, and as requested by the city, traffic data collection will include one week of average daily counts at peak season on weekdays and weekends during the mornings and evenings, and will include bicycle and pedestrian counts.

The daily counts will be adjusted to data from summer 2021 conditions.

A related transportation demand management study will include existing transit service and options, estimated ridership, and associated costs to provide an acceptable level of service for the Lumberyard, according to Everson.

He told council that Fehr & Peers’ analysis is key to addressing community concerns about additional traffic in the area.

“This is a $76,000 traffic study, an unbelievable amount of money,” Everson said, “but what we hear over and over again about the impacts, we just want to make sure we’ve covered everything.”

The city on Wednesday hosted an open house showing the public the latest iterations of the Lumberyard project’s design and layout with many options to weigh in on.

That information will be compiled and the project team will return in front of council on Jan. 10 to discuss next steps.

[email protected]