Vail dealing with life in the fast lane |

Vail dealing with life in the fast lane

People who moved into houses next to a busy highway because they figured the beauty of the setting outweighed the road noise are now pitting comfort against safety.

Vail has been trying to mitigate the noise emanating from Interstate 70 for years. The Vail Town Council is pressing forward on other alternatives. It seems bent on quieting the road, whatever the consequences.

SKI magazines No. 1-rated resort’s primary target are the loud, engine-compression brakes that truckers refer to as “jake brakes.” They are a safety backup that truckers use to check speed on steep, downhill stretches of road.

The Vail Town Council last week voted 4-3 to authorize fines of up to $999 for truckers who use their jake brakes as they pass through town. It remains to be seen if and how this will be enforced.

The folks at Copper Mountain will be watching closely, for they, too, are plagued by jake brakes.

Vail Councilmember Greg Moffet voted for the authorization of fines saying, “Nobody’s ever going to take us seriously because we always fold and commission another study. We don’t need no stinkin’ study.”

Yes, many Vail residents are fed up. They’re done talking about solutions and are ready to implement one.

Also on the table: Reduce the speed limit on the interstate as it snakes through the Vail Valley; re-pave the road with a quieter surface; and put the road underground.

This is the ultimate exertion of control over one’s environment. The irony is, Interstate 70 is itself a form of control over the environment. Without it, there would be no Vail, at least not as we know it. The road provides access to what is a naturally inaccessible place, and it gives the town its lifeblood: visitors.

But now, we have people who want to place controls over an existing control of the environment. And this is their right, unless it infringes on other people’s safety.

Vail can study options all day, but as soon as it becomes clear that a noise mitigation strategy would negatively affect safety on the road – as has been argued by state police and truckers in the case of banning jake brakes – the issue should be dropped.

Amazingly, it hasn’t been.

The fact that homeowners in the Vail Valley are willing to sacrifice public safety in the name of personal peace and quiet is galling, especially when one considers that these people moved into or built their homes knowing they were within earshot of the highway, which, of course, was there first.

Vail is a highway town. It’s a narrow valley in which the interstate is practically inescapable. Anyone looking at real estate in the area should know and accept this.

The speed-limit-reduction option is the most reasonable, but also the least effective. It would be nice to see, though, not only because it may actually make the road safer, but also because it would represent the vanity of Vail well.

Imagine: Drivers traveling cross country could cruise at 65 to 75 mph from Washington, D.C., to Utah except for that small stretch of road from East Vail to Eagle, where they would be forced to slow down, not for any safety concern, but so that people can better enjoy their mountain lifestyle.

We can empathize, but wonder if reality can be altered to change what life along an interstate will always be.

Opinions published in this space are formulated by members of the Summit Daily News editorial board: Michael Bennett, Jim Pokrandt, Jason Starr, Rachel Toth, Reid Williams, Kim Nicoletti and Martha Lunsky.

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