Vail Town Council weighs in on I-70 | SummitDaily.com
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Vail Town Council weighs in on I-70

SCOTT N. MILLEReagle county correspondent
Vail Daily/Preston Utley Firefighters evaluate the damage to a tanker that rolled over on westbound I-70. The tanker spilled hazardous material delaying traffic for many hours. Members of the Vail Town Council recently said they weren't fond of any of the options to fix the congestion problem on I-70.
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VAIL – It’s a menu with nothing particularly good on it.That was the initial impression of Vail Town Council members following a long report about the future of Interstate 70.The report – presented by Gary Suitor of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NCCOG), a regional lobbying and advocacy group – laid out current options state officials are pondering to relieve future congestion on the highway. The NCCOG has been touring the state to hold informational town meetings to inform them about potential, long-term projects on I-70.While the state has a list of ideas, a group of counties and towns along and near the highway corridor is working to create its own proposal to guide I-70’s future. The council of governments is helping that group.

Residents in Clear Creek County have voiced strong opposition with the plan to widen I-70, and voices of opposition and support surfaced in a February meeting in Summit County. Another meeting will take place at noon March 30 at the Keystone Lodge with members of the business community to continue the discussion, separate from Suitor’s information gathering campaign.A small group of Denver-area residents who are members of, or associated with the state’s Sierra Club, is following Suitor from town to town to lobby for their favorite option for the highway: very little paving, and a focus on high-tech rail service into the mountains.State officials have dropped such ideas from the options list, due primarily to cost. The current list is dedicated mostly to various kinds of new lanes, with the transit option limited to buses rolling along I-70 on a guideway, then driving directly to off-interstate locations such as Breckenridge and Winter Park.Vail Town Councilman Greg Moffet said he wasn’t impressed with any of the options.New paving projects could take as long as 15 years, and those projects could hit their peak-hour capacities just after they’re finished, Moffet noted.

“It’s insane to be programming this just to 2025 if that’s the case,” he said.The transit options aren’t a lot better, he said. “I haven’t seen any evidence on transit use, but intuitively, it isn’t going to work,” Moffet said. That’s especially true in the summer, he added, when people come to the mountains to play in areas away from the interstate.If rail is part of the answer, Moffet said, it would be better used to move freight and cars than just people.

“The airport is becoming more essential,” Councilman Dick Cleveland said. Compared to the interstate fixes, which come with estimated price tags of about $2 billion and up, Cleveland said putting money into promoting flights in and out of Eagle would be “chump change.”Mayor Rod Slifer said more highway lanes would increase the need for parking in Vail, where’s there’s little room for it. Rail, he added, isn’t worth the money unless the lines go directly to Denver International Airport.”Our problem is noise,” Moffet said. “Nothing in this touches on that.”Scott N. Miller can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 613, or at smiller@vaildaily.com.


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