USA Pro Challenge route change is news to Pitkin County commissioners
Special to The Aspen Times
Stage 1 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge has been rerouted onto Highway 82 instead of Maroon Creek Road, and the Pitkin County commissioners don’t appreciate hearing about it through the grapevine.
The race route isn’t the only change to the marquee event. There’s also the rumored change to Roaring Fork Transit Authority bus routes and a soiree on county-owned property.
“There’s a party at the airport, and the commissioners don’t know anything about it?” said board Chairman George Newman. “What’s that all about?
At the tail end of the commissioners’ work session Tuesday, they were discussing special-event permits, and Newman wondered if Community Development Director Cindy Houben had heard about a significant route change on the bike race, separate stages of which will be in Aspen on Aug. 19 and 20. Houben answered that she had not heard about the changes. Newman said Sheriff Joe DiSalvo had told him that Stage 1 of the Challenge will no longer go up Maroon Creek Road from the roundabout and then across the Tiehack Bridge.
Instead, Newman said, race organizers had decided that the Tiehack bridge was not designed for the weight loads presented by the bike race, so the race will go down Highway 82 instead.
Contacted after the meeting, DiSalvo confirmed this change for The Aspen Times.
“The (Tiehack) bridge had an issue with weight restrictions,” he said. “Between the cyclists and the support vehicles, they took it off the table for safety reasons.”
DiSalvo added that he couldn’t gauge the magnitude of this route change because the route for Aug. 19 already crosses or uses Highway 82 in two or three other places. He said local authorities will be getting information out to the public about all traffic delays well before the race.
Newman wondered why, since the Board of County Commissioners had signed off on a special-event permit for the race, a change of that magnitude wouldn’t have come back to the board. His fellow commissioner Michael Owsley said “it seems to me you’ve got a different event” than the county originally approved.
This led to a series of complaints from commissioners about the special-event-permitting process and the perception on the board that the county is being left out of the loop. Commissioners said they were surprised to learn that the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority would be dropping downvalley spectators at the Brush Creek intercept lot on the day of the bike race.
“These changes are being made, and the city and law enforcement know about it, but the county and Community Development don’t know about it,” Newman said.
Commissioner Rob Ittner made it clear that nobody on the county board wants to stop or disrupt the bicycle race but that “it’s our job to critique (special events) and make sure the citizens are protected.”
In the end, commissioners asked Houben to arrange for an update on bike race planning from City Special Events Director Nancy Lesley. That discussion, though centered on the bike race, likely will involve a suggested overhaul of the special-event-permitting process.
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