January 23, 2013

County voices concerns on bike-race road closures

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The Tiehack bridge over Maroon Creek may have a much different feel to it on Monday, Aug. 19. All three of the proposed routes for a 2013 USA Pro Challenge circuit race between Aspen and Snowmass Village cross the 14-foot-wide bridge. The Pitkin County commissioners did not mention the bridge as a concern. Instead, their focus was on the length and location of potential county and state road closures from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on race day.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The Tiehack bridge over Maroon Creek may have a much different feel to it on Monday, Aug. 19. All three of the proposed routes for a 2013 USA Pro Challenge circuit race between Aspen and Snowmass Village cross the 14-foot-wide bridge. The Pitkin County commissioners did not mention the bridge as a concern. Instead, their focus was on the length and location of potential county and state road closures from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on race day.

The Pitkin County commissioners expressed concerns Tuesday about the safety and convenience of residents and motorists during the Aug. 19 circuit race between Aspen and Snowmass Village planned for the 2013 USA Pro Challenge bike race.

“The way the race is being proposed, it’s going to effect the entire valley,” said George Newman, the current chair of the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners.

Race organizers said vehicular access to both Aspen and Snowmass Village would be closed from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 19, which is a Monday.

Motorists heading to the airport and the hospital would be allowed to pass, but they would experience long delays while the race is under way.

The approach to the Tiehack bridge includes a mini-roundabout and then a tight s-turn to get on the deck.

Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The approach to the Tiehack bridge includes a mini-roundabout and then a tight s-turn to get on the deck.Smith/Aspen Journalism


Race organizers said allowances would be made for emergency vehicles and RFTA buses to reach their destinations.

On the other hand, it is likely that access to many driveways and private roads would be closed or see delays during the race.

“This seems to be very disruptive to a lot of people,” said Commissioner Rob Ittner.

The circuit race between Aspen and Snowmass is set for the first day of the event, which ends on Aug. 25 in Denver.

On the second day, Aug. 20, the bike racers will start in Aspen and ride over Independence Pass to Breckenridge.

Organizers have put forward three conceptual routes for the opening-day circuit, and all of them include racing on county roads and State Highway 82.

The first route would take riders from downtown Aspen on Main Street out to the Highway 82 roundabout and up Maroon Creek Road to the 14-foot-wide Tiehack pedestrian bridge that spans Maroon Creek behind the Aspen Recreation Center.

From there, the racers would ride down Tiehack Road and turn left onto the upvalley lanes of Highway 82, as two-way highway traffic would be moved over to the two downvalley lanes.

Riders would then turn left onto Owl Creek Road and proceed to its intersection with Brush Creek Road in Snowmass Village. Once there, they would turn right and head down Brush Creek Road to the downvalley highway lanes.

The racers would then head to Smith Hill Road, which leads down to Jaffe Park, and up the steep hill to McLain Flats Road and Cemetery Lane.

At the top of Cemetery Lane, the riders would drop down onto Power Plant Road and emerge into the West End before heading back to downtown Aspen, where the race will finish.

The racers would take at least three laps on that loop and maybe more, according to Jim Birrell, the managing partner of Medalist Sports, the firm putting on the Pro Challenge.

Birrell said race organizers are still weighing how tough to make the first day.

There are also two other routes under consideration. Both of those follow the same route out of Aspen and to Snowmass, but would detour through the steep hills of Brush Creek Village off of lower Brush Creek Road.

The second route would have the riders return to Aspen via the upvalley lanes of Highway 82.

The third route would take the riders down Highway 82 through Snowmass Canyon to Lower River Road and back up McLain Flats Road to Aspen.

The city of Aspen is preparing a special events permit for the race, which will be submitted this spring to Pitkin County’s special events committee for review. The county has the authority to approve or deny the special events permit application.

Tuesday’s discussion with the county commissioners was meant to inform the board of the city’s plan for developing the event permit application.

County planners are expected to check back in with the commissioners on March 12.

Nancy Lesley, the special events director for the city of Aspen, said there is an extensive outreach effort under way to determine potential problems along the three suggested routes and work out proper mitigation.

“We’re trying to make it work for everybody,” Lesley told the commissioners.

A final route is to be determined by March 1.

In a memo, Lesley said that “staff acknowledges that these impacts are going to be felt throughout the valley.”

Commissioner Ittner said it was difficult to offer much feedback on the various routes if they were still under development. He suggested much more detail would be needed about the length of specific road closures or delays for residents and others to determine their true concerns.

Commissioner Michael Owsley, who represents the Woody Creek area, said his constituents may or may not care about the bike race.

“My guess is their over-riding desire is not to have their day disrupted,” Owsley said.

He also wondered if some residents and visitors would listen to a race volunteer telling them they couldn’t leave their driveway during the race.

Both commissioners Newman and Rachel Richards suggested it might also make more sense for the riders to first make several laps around downtown Aspen, head out to Snowmass, make several laps there, and then head back to Aspen, rather than doing a larger loop through both communities several times.

“I think we need to look at some other routes that don’t impact the roundabout,” Newman said.

Lesley, the point person for the city on the event, said in her memo that “all ideas are being looked into and vetted for viability.”

She also stressed that the race will give Aspen and Snowmass two-and-a-half hours of live television coverage and should bring people to the resorts for three or four days.

Editor’s note: A version of this story was published by the Aspen Daily News on Jan. 23, 2013.

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