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Noise wall vs. park "n rides

Jane Reuter

SUMMIT COUNTY – Dillon Valley residents may finally get their long-promised noise wall. That’s what the Summit County commissioners told state transportation officials they want to see happen next.

The commissioners’ decision also means further work on park “n ride projects planned for Summit County will have to wait a year. Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) spokesman Jeff Kullman told the commissioners Monday there isn’t enough money to accomplish both during the coming fiscal year.

CDOT had set aside $2.6 million for fiscal 2003 – which begins July 1 – to build a noise wall between Interstate 70 and Dillon Valley. It also had earmarked $2.6 million to construct park “n rides in Silverthorne, Frisco and Breckenridge. But due to a lack of state revenues, Kullman told the commissioners his pot has been reduced. He asked the commissioners how they’d like to see the remaining funds spent.

In the end, the commissioners made the noise wall their first choice, anticipating CDOT will fund park “n rides in fiscal 2004. But their decision came after some debate.

“Park “n rides improve transportation for all of Summit County,” said Commissioner Gary Lindstrom. “The whole thing is to improve transportation, not to improve the quality of one subdivision’s life.”

Breckenridge Mayor Sam Mamula, who attended Monday’s meeting, agreed with Lindstrom.

“If you look at where the vision should be for this county, it has to be on transportation,” he said. “You can’t equate a noise wall in a given neighborhood with how you get people out of their cars.”

But other local officials at the meeting – who also happen to live in Dillon Valley – spoke up for their neighborhood. Dillon Valley is an unincorporated area of the county, Lake Dillon Fire Chief Francis Winston reminded the BOCC, so it doesn’t have a town council to whom it can turn.

“The commissioners are our elected officials,” he said. “I’ve lived (in Dillon Valley) 18 years. When I moved in, there wasn’t near the traffic. I think (the highway growth) shocked the whole community. It needs to be resolved.”

“Dillon Valley is a pretty large community,” said Jack Benson, the county’s public works director and a Dillon Valley resident. “There’s been a promise on the table a long time.”

“To me, it’s a real Catch 22,” said Commissioner Bill Wallace. “But those people have been promised that noise wall. I think it’s time we get that done.”

CDOT first promised it would build the noise walls in July 1997. That promise followed a CDOT-financed study that showed noise levels in the area were perilously close to exceeding federal guidelines.

State highway officials said then the entire barrier would be completed in five years – at most. Six years later, CDOT has built up a dirt barrier along some sections of the valley, but no further work has been done there in recent years.

While the commissioners have made their decision, they’re now asking the towns to do the same. The county manager will meet with town managers during the next few days to see if they, too, feel the noise wall deserves top priority. Kullman wants an answer in two weeks.

CDOT officials were not available to provide details on the construction schedule for the noise wall.

A small park “n ride is under construction in Silverthorne, on the old Colorado Mountain College site at Fourth Street and Blue River Parkway. Some additional work also is planned in Frisco. Breckenridge plans a large center, but Town Manager Tim Gagen said the center still is in the planning stages.

“Ours was a little bit more elaborate (than Silverthorne’s) because we’re making it the main connecting point for the town, ski company and Summit Stage,” Gagen said. “We were looking to take it to a little different level than just a shelter. Not only a place where buses meet, but where visitors can get information without having to go to a visitors center.”

Vail has two centers similar to the one Breckenridge hopes to have at each of its parking structures. Gagen said it’s too early in the game to even know the exact cost.

“We’d have to push ourselves to be ready to build something next year,” he said. “We’d like to do it in a more leisurely time frame and build it maybe in the 2006, 2007 time frame.”

Breckenridge’s center is tentatively planned in the Watson/Sawmill parking lots area.

Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at jreuter@summitdaily.com


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