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Commissioners say transit a must

JENNIFER HUFFMANsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk County commissioners are in favor of transit alternatives for the Interstate-70 corridor.
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SUMMIT COUNTY – A combination of mass transit and lane expansion should be the way to go for the Interstate 70 corridor, according to the county commissioners.”I’m not doing my job if I don’t push transit as an alternative for I-70,” said County Commissioner Bill Wallace. Mass transit options for the corridor include buses in guideways in the I-70 median, rail transportation and an elevated monorail. “We must solve the problem for 50 years to come, and we must have transit,” Wallace added.For years, congestion on the interstate has had local, regional and state officials trying to decide on the best solution, but so far, little action has taken place. The Colorado Department of Transportation has hosted town meetings in hopes of drumming up public feedback.After a 2001 vote for a monorail showed little support for the idea outside the corridor, officials began drawing up new alternatives. Now, to help build a consensus on the best solution, 30 counties and towns have formed the I-70 Central Mountain Transportation Corridor Coalition.

The coalition’s purpose is to prepare a regionally preferred solution for the congestion that continues to build on I-70. The group will meet May 5 and 6 to craft the preferred alternative to present to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Tuesday, Jack Taylor, one of three facilitators commissioned by the Colorado Council of Governments (CCOG), presented CDOT’s options for the I-70 transportation corridor to the commissioners. Commissioners Bob French and Tom Long agreed with Wallace that mass transit was a must but with the addition of multi-laning the highway. French disagreed with the suggestion that the technology for rapid mass transit is unavailable. “I don’t know why the current administration (for Colorado) is sold on asphalt,” French said. Long was concerned with the safety of one of CDOT’s preferred options, the six-lane highway with 55 mph design speed.

“I’m amazed that we would have to say to people that we prefer this standard, and it has the highest fatality rate,” Long said. “Just building more lanes means dirty air.”However, Long wasn’t entirely sold on the transit options either, noting the limitations of rail alternatives on steep grade areas and the slow speed of the buses in a guideway on I-70.”At a top speed of 65 miles per hour (in the guideway), the public won’t accept the bus in the guideway,” Wallace said.The dual mode bus can travel a maximum of 45 mph once it exits the guideway.Cost was a concern for the commissioners as well, since CDOT’s preferred alternatives have to be less than or equal to $4 billion in capital cost.”A $4 billion cap is absolutely unrealistic,” French said.

Wallace said transit and roadways should be constructed concurrently if the cost must remain below the $4 billion mark. Commissioners did not provide numbers for an appropriate cost estimate.”Who says it all has to be done in the same shot? Why couldn’t they work on (sections of I-70)?” Wallace said.The commissioners came to consensus that “no action” is an unacceptable option, and lack of technology is not an acceptable excuse for not taking on transit as an alternative.The trio also agreed that all of the options hadn’t been looked at thoroughly enough and that more combinations should be considered. However, no additional combinations were suggested.Jennifer Huffman can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or at jhuffman@summitdaily.com.


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