Breck, ski area to address safety issues at South Park Avenue |

Breck, ski area to address safety issues at South Park Avenue

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge Town Council members said Tuesday night they will ask the ski resort to help them figure out a way to make the south end of Park Avenue safer for pedestrians.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) asked the town to address safety concerns for the numerous intersections along Park Avenue as part of a plan to relocate Highway 9 from Main Street to Park Avenue.

Some intersections, including those at Four O’Clock and Village Road at South Park, and French and Airport with North Park, likely will require traffic signals to ensure smooth traffic flow in the future. Breckenridge Ski Resort officials plan to build a tunnel under North Park Avenue near Mountain Thunder Lodge so skiers coming off the mountain can access the Sawmill and Watson parking lots safely.

But consultants and town officials have yet to determine how to solve the problems associated with pedestrians, double-parked cars, local and chartered bus traffic and people dropping off skiers on South Park Avenue from the Blue River to Village Road. A large number of skiers meander across the street from F-Lot to the Village at Breckenridge Resort, which is owned by Vail Resorts.

The town council has looked at building either a tunnel under or a bridge over the road to safely get pedestrians from one side of the road to the other. While they prefer a bridge, its $1.5 million to $2 million cost is prohibitive. Engineers say designing an underpass will cost $156,000, and CDOT officials have said they’d be willing to chip in $100,000 toward that cost.

That doesn’t immediately solve the problem, and CDOT and town officials need to address it before the Highway 9 swap can be made.

Many pedestrians seem oblivious to the two crosswalks leading from F-Lot to the Village at Breckenridge. And people dropping off skiers aren’t allowed to use the traffic circle at the Village, even though many of those being dropped off plan to attend ski school, located on the lower level of the Village.

“The ski area says, “Bring your kids to our ski school, but don’t use our parking area to drop them off,'” said Mayor Sam Mamula. “We’re trying to find a solution to their problem.”

“We’re not shucking our responsibility by any stretch,” said Jack Wolfe, Vail Resort’s vice president of development for Summit County. “We’re all involved, and we plan to do what we’ve always done: sit down with the town to identify and solve the problem. There is no silver bullet.”

The ski area inherited the problem when it purchased the commercial space within the Village. Condos there are privately owned. There is no room along the road to build a skier drop-off area – short of tearing down some of its buildings to widen the roads.

A recent Carter Burgess study suggested the town install fencing along the entire stretch with openings where pedestrians can cross. Town Engineer Eric Guth noted that the town wouldn’t be able to fence the numerous driveways, bus stops and pullouts, and people would try to cross wherever there was an opening.

Another option is to install a fence down the center of the street. That, too, could create problems, Guth said, as pedestrians stroll into the roadway only to find their path blocked.

Guth suggested the town carve out a short-term parking area from the south end of F-Lot and funnel pedestrians to crosswalks east of that.

“It’s a lousy fix,” he said. “It’s the best available, but it’s not good enough. I don’t think temporary parking is the solution to having ski school in the wrong place.”

Vail Resorts likely will redevelop the Village and provide space for the many vehicles that drop off and pick up skiers.

“We need to tell the ski company they have an obligation to fix that problem,” Mamula said. “We’ll work with them, but it’s their problem.”

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