Parking, management to keep Ski Hill traffic at bay | SummitDaily.com

Parking, management to keep Ski Hill traffic at bay

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – Smaller parking lots and less development at the bases of Peaks 7 and 8 could eliminate the need for a gondola to ease traffic congestion on Ski Hill Road, traffic analysts told the Breckenridge planning commission Nov. 19.

But Breckenridge Ski Resort officials said they have no intention of abandoning plans for the lift, which will take skiers from in-town parking lots to the base of the mountains.

Slow-moving traffic coming down Ski Hill Road at the end of the day contributes to long lines at the Ski Hill and Park Avenue intersection and further congestion down North Park Avenue. Part of the appeal of the proposed gondola, which will run from Watson parking lot to Peak 7 and then 8 is that studies show the gondola will reduce vehicular traffic on the main road to Peak 8.

The ski company hired TDA Colorado, a Denver-based transportation consulting firm, to conduct a second traffic analysis to determine how development on the mountain will affect traffic on Ski Hill Road.

Town officials routinely require traffic studies to determine how larger developments will affect local roads. Ski resort officials ordered the study after they forged a development agreement with the town that more specifically outlines the density permitted at the base areas.

Under the terms of the agreement, the ski company can build 501 single-family equivalents (SFEs) at Peaks 7 and 8. An SFE is loosely defined as the square footage allowed in various types of construction. Outside the historic district, for example, one SFE is equivalent to 1,000 square feet of commercial space, 1,200 square feet of condo-hotel space and 1,600 square feet of townhomes. Within the historic district, the square footage allowed is smaller.

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Last month, ski resort officials outlined a development proposal for the base areas. On Peak 8, proposed development will comprise 22 single-family homes, 296 condo-hotel rooms, 39,000 square feet of skier services and 14,500 square feet of commercial space.

On Peak 7, resort officials would like to build 143 condo-hotel units, 18,000 square feet of skier services and 500 square feet of commercial space, totalling 168,500 square feet of development.

Another part of the agreement sets up the criteria by which the resort and town will create two funding districts to build infrastructure for the area. The town also will help the resort develop a funding mechanism to pay for the gondola.

The gondola is key to the development’s success.

According to David Leahy of TDA, vehicle counts on Ski Hill Road would have almost doubled today’s numbers if the ski company had opted to build what currently is permitted under a base-area master plan approved in 1986.

But by reducing parking spots at the base area – from 650 today to 230 – ski area officials essentially force drivers to park in the Sawmill and Watson parking lots in town and use another method of transportation to get to the lifts.

Some people will use ski buses. But most, ski area officials say, will use the gondola, which will be capable of transporting 3,000 people an hour up the hill. It will take seven minutes to get riders to Peak 7 and an additional minute and a half to get to Peak 8.

Other ways resort officials propose to help reduce traffic on Peak 8 is through the new Peak 8 SuperConnect lift that will disperse skiers among the resort’s four peaks, the proposed ski-back that will take skiers from Peak 8 all the way back to the in-town parking lots, and parking and traffic management.

Traffic management in-cludes signs, pay parking and parking passes, working with local police to direct traffic, re-timing the traffic signal and intercepting traffic at Park Avenue and Ski Hill Road to prevent drivers from heading up the mountain.

Jane Stebbins can be reached

at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.