Get ready: Roundabout construction, traffic delays set to start next week

Aspen roundabout construction ramps up as the city enters the off-season on Wednesday, April 20, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

After about a month of groundwork, crews will begin demolishing and rebuilding the east Aspen roundabout on Monday.

That’s when the real traffic delays and a voluntary detour along McLain Flats Road will begin, according to a Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

CDOT crews will finish paving a temporary traffic lane outside the roundabout on Friday, which will manage traffic flow while the asphalt surface of the roundabout is removed and replaced with concrete from mid-June to the end of June, said Tracy Trulove. This temporary lane will be removed once the reconstruction of the roundabout is complete.

In the meantime, CDOT will activate the voluntary detour with traffic control and flaggers in place in the eastbound lanes of Highway 82 where it meets Smith Hill Way during the morning rush hour. Posted speed limits will be 40 mph between 6 and 9 a.m. Monday through Friday in this area to help ease traffic to Smith Hill Way to use the detour, according to a CDOT news release.

Passenger cars and trucks can either take the Smith Hill Way detour at McLain Flats to Cemetery Lane and return to Highway 82, or stay on Highway 82 to Aspen. Buses, freight vehicles and utility vehicles must remain on Highway 82 and are prohibited on McLain Flats Road.

Flaggers will not direct traffic one way or the other, with private car drivers allowed to choose which route they will take, according to CDOT.

Crews will also update traffic light controls between the Aspen CBD and Truscott overnight this week to account for roundabout construction. Signals will be in flash mode or completely off during this work with flagmen posted to direct traffic at intersections.

Once reconstruction of the roundabout begins, drivers passing through the area should allow an additional 15 to 30 minutes of travel time, according to the press release. Eastbound or uphill lane closures will be in place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, while westbound or downhill lane closures will be in place between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day of the week.

“Considerable vehicular congestion can be expected, including lengthy delays due to the volume of traffic crossing the Maroon Creek roundabout and the roads that feed into it,” the statement said. “Commuters are encouraged to take (Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses) either from the communities they live in or from the Brush Creek Park and Ride (parking lot at Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road).”

RFTA bus service to Aspen or Snowmass Village from the Brush Creek lot is free and parking on the lot is also free.

Large potholes collect water as snow melts on the traffic circle outside Aspen on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The reconstruction of the roundabout in concrete, which is much more durable than asphalt, aims to eliminate the frequent potholes that appear at the roundabout each winter and must be continually repaired. Asphalt typically lasts two to three years, while concrete is expected to last at least 20 years.

The nearly $2.6 million rebuild is being funded by CDOT, the City of Aspen, Pitkin County, RFTA and the Transportation Committee of Elected Officials. Work on the project will halt during Aspen Food and Wine (June 17-19) and the Aspen Ideas Festival (June 25-July 1), and the contractor must have completed the roundabout by the end of June.

Cyclists who frequent McLain Flats Road will likely want to rethink this route as traffic is expected to be heavy on weekdays.

Once the roundabout is complete, CDOT crews will repave Highway 82 between the ABC and the Maroon Creek Bridge from July through September, although this activity will take place at night to reduce traffic delays. After Labor Day, CDOT plans to work on the Castle Creek Bridge for four to five weeks, which will cause further traffic delays to and from Aspen.

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