County, towns narrow Hwy 9 improvement options
BRECKENRIDGE – The Frisco Town Council is the only thing standing in the way of a consensus among county and town officials regarding improvements along Highway 9, but officials don’t expect that to last.
Frisco Mayor Bob Moscatelli said he’ll talk to council members to see if they’d be willing to change their minds about supporting Alternative 2, one of five options outlined by the Colorado Department of Transportation regarding safety improvements proposed along the 10-mile stretch of highway.
All but one of the alternatives proposed by CDOT involve widening the highway between Frisco and Breckenridge and implementing strategies such as vanpools to encourage people to use public transportation.
Once the three groups reach a consensus, they will notify CDOT officials, who will then schedule a comment period.
County and Breckenridge officials said in a meeting Tuesday morning they support Alternative 3, which features narrower medians than those proposed in Alternatives 1 and 2.
Frisco council members threw their support behind Alternative 2 because it incorporates bus or high-occupancy vehicle lanes.
“We’re less concerned about the road from Breckenridge to Frisco than the traffic itself,” said Frisco Mayor Bob Moscatelli. “We want there to be some accommodation to get cars on Interstate 70 as quickly as possible.”
Breckenridge Mayor Sam Mamula agreed, saying traffic cannot be allowed to flow freely between the towns only to get bogged down at the single lane onto the interstate in Frisco.
Local officials want the wider medians not only to improve safety on the highway, but to accommodate a future light-rail system. CDOT officials have said light rail systems are not in their 20-year plan and therefore they can’t obtain rights of way on the sides of the highway. Under the guise of safety, they are allowed to obtain rights of way in the median and officials in the future then could use the land for a light-rail system.
“CDOT is not going to pay for transit – not in our lifetimes,” said County Commissioner Bill Wallace. “They might get this road done in 20 years.”
Frisco Town Councilmember Bernie Zurbriggen said it might be wise to plan for some kind of rapid transit between the two towns.
“My concern is that one day, we’ll convince the voters of this state that there ought to be a better way up I-70,” he said. “I can see a worst-case: It’ll take people 20 minutes to get up here from DIA, and then an hour-and-a-half for them to figure out how to get around. They don’t want to take transit up here, then get off and load all their gear onto a bus, then reach a terminal in Breckenridge and try to figure out how to get to their condos. That’s why they rent cars at DIA. It’s easier. If we don’t plan for it now, it’s likely never to happen.”
The merits of HOV lanes were also discussed, with County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom saying perhaps they could be better used as turn and acceleration lanes.
“I don’t think HOV lanes work – they’re a joke,” he said. “I travel all over the country and I see HOV lanes that are completely empty.”
Skiers, however, might use them more often than others, said Breckenridge Town Manager Tim Gagen. He said a town study of skiers parking in town showed an average of 2.58 skiers per car. A CDOT study put that number at 2.3. HOV lanes typically require at least two passengers per vehicle during peak hours.
The challenge, leaders agreed, would be to get local residents, who are often one person to a vehicle, to use public transportation.
“I think the future rests in the bus,” Mamula said. “We still make it easy to bring an individual car into town. Until we make it difficult to bring a car in, there will still be cars with one person on the highway.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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