President - Alan Kosloff     Secretary - Ellie Caulkins    Treasurer - Patrick Gramm    Executive Director  -  Jim Lamont

Directors:  Judith Berkowitz  -  Dolph Bridgewater  -  Richard Conn  -  Bob Galvin  -  Ron Langley

Eugene Mercy  -  Bill Morton  -  Trygve Myhren  -  Gretta Parks


To:       Alan Kosloff, Board of Directors, Membership, and Interested Parties. 

From:   Jim Lamont

Date:    December 29, 2005

RE:       VVHA Whitepaper – Eliminating I-70, a Grand Vision for Vail. 

Executive Summary:  

The Homeowners Association prepared this whitepaper report as an overview of I-70 issues confronting the community including long-term options available to significantly reduce or eliminate its negative impacts.   Federal and State highway authorities, through a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), are investigating options that include an expansion of the interstate through parts of Vail. 

           Conceptual Expansion Profiles Should Interstate -70 Be Expanded Through Vail (16-18 lanes replace 8-10 lanes):

                   North Frontage Road                                                    Interstate 70                                                              South Frontage Road

The very goals of the community are at risk of being lost if the expansion projected takes place.  Importantly, the expansion will bring environmental deterioration, which if allowed to occur, will degrade the community’s economic sustainability beyond repair.  

A possible solution is to reclaim the land (550 acres) currently occupied by Interstate 70 by relocating the interstate in a bypass tunnel under Vail Mountain or burying it in its present located.  The vision is to reclaim the community, making it whole, joining divided neighborhoods together and opening opportunities for a quantum leap into a future bright with the prospect of societal and economic success.  This land, if put to good use by the community, would result in the fulfillment of a “grand vision” unseen in any other resort community, making Vail the most desired and respected of all.   

This report considers two options, the first of which is relocating the interstate to a bypass tunnel, in which an expanded I-70 would be constructed under Vail Mountain, from a point on the west side of Vail Pass to Dowd Junction.  The second option is to bury I-70 in a “cut & cover” tunnel within the interstate right-of-way through Vail. Mass transit systems discussed in the PEIS and other studies could be a component in either of the tunnel options.  The construction and on-going operation of either option is proposed to be fully or significantly financed by opening the land formerly occupied by I-70 to private development. 

Preliminary studies conducted by qualified consultants construction costs for the by-pass at $3.05 billion and the cut & cover at $3.46 billion. These costs do not include local infrastructure improvement cost that would be required to support development on the abandoned right-of-way  

Studies remain to be conducted on alternative financing sources including how much private development will be required to finance tunnel construction.  In any scenario, to realize such a vision, the community must consider seriously a reality, which to save itself, it must grow exponentially.  The potential to plan the future development of the community upon a strategy of long-term growth opens the possibility for Vail to move beyond many of the limitations under which it now labors.   

The rerouting of I-70 would allow Vail new land on which to build needed community facilities, affordable housing, and expand facilities for the destination guest.  Sites for many community needs are even now limited in size and availability.  The Interstate 70 right-of-way is 550 acres.  A minimum 150-foot right-of-way on average would need to be retained for a central boulevard and mass transit corridor.  Development could occur over the right-of-way using cut & cover techniques. 

The value of Vail, as a financial investment and as a resort community, is totally dependent upon sustaining the quality of its natural environment and the enhancement of lifestyle assets, which the resort provides to the community’s inhabitants and guests.  A dilemma is created when lifestyle and environmental assets are in conflict with the detrimental impacts from infrastructure that serves the resort or region such as a freeway, mass transportation or parking facilities.  The Association, in a study of European ski resorts communities found evidence that leading resorts, confronted with the same dilemma, found permanent solutions, which protect the environment and culture of the entire community, to the benefit all inhabitants.  The solutions applied advanced highway construction techniques to build bypasses for expressway traffic; others employed progressive mass transportation with park and ride technology to reduce reliance on automobile access all together. 

 View East: - I-70, Vail Village and Lionshead                            Photographer: Joe Kracum

The community, if its success is to flourish, must rise to the challenge presented by I-70.  It must apply its full resources to shaping the will of both the Federal and State government to solutions that the community believes is in its best interest.  It will require innovation of design and financing, employing the considerable wealth of the community, to create an entrepreneurial approach that breaks with tradition of financing public projects. Vail is one of the few communities in the nation that can bring to bear both its financial and human resources to accomplish in the United States what have become acceptable practices in Europe.  Vail as a community is now in a race against time whereby it must develop a long-term vision, plans and strategies. Vail must set about determining its future on its own terms.   

The scale of the undertaking requires a compelling vision of the community’s future that is enduring for generations to come.  The vision must offer possibilities to better the quality-of-life for the community as a whole and the personal lives of each individual.  It must stir the imagination and will of the community to seek out leaders who will carry the vision forward through its technical complexities and political challenges.  The vision must be compelling so that each generation of leadership commits to sustaining its continuity and progress.  To build an enduring allegiance, the vision itself must emerge from the will and values of the community’s members and its leadership.  They must be the architects of the vision.  Leadership must come from the community-at-large.   These leaders must bring to government officials, be they local or beyond, constructive proposals that motivate progress. 

The Vail community has thus far successfully navigated the considerable challenge of reinventing itself.  It is learning the lessons necessary to confront greater challenges ahead.  It is steadily mastering the skills to guide the allocation of significant sums of investment capital.  It has demonstrated the ability to manage the design and construction of complex redevelopment projects.  There are thoughtful people who believe, Vail is fully capable of sustaining itself through the relocation and removal of the interstate, attaining in the process transformation to world-class stature.   They point to the scope and value of the massive $1 billion redevelopment currently underway in Vail’s resort town center.  They see the possibilities of achieving such an undertaking in the forecast of burgeoning worldwide lifestyle demand for quality cosmopolitan resort communities. 

Significant additional study is required and warranted.  The long-range concept of removing or burying the interstate should be diligently pursued so the community’s options are not lost by its own inaction.  More in-depth geotechnical studies on tunnel construction and cost estimating need to be accomplished to generate a manageable range of expected tunneling costs. Interim cost effective solutions should be sought and implemented to mitigate sources of environmental pollution caused by the interstate.  Capital improvement projects should be identified and accomplished permitting the eventual elimination of the interstate.  

I-70 is the bane of Vail’s future:  

The interstate highway is Vail’s most potent source of environmental deterioration.  Its continued presence threatens to undermine the long-term potential of the entire community.   Currently, the highway is the primary cause of chronic noise, visual and water pollution.  It dominates the landscape and cleaves the community in half.  The desirability of being outdoors in Vail will deteriorate; by 2025 daily traffic is expected to almost double and noise levels will increase by 50% or more. See Town of Vail reports and mapping regarding I-70 noise mitigation.

The initial stage of the redevelopment of Vail has demonstrated that master planning can be used to overcome long-standing impediments to improving the quality-of-life and destination resort experience in Vail Village and Lionshead (Resort Town Center).   Impediments like the noise, unsightliness and damage to streetscape improvements from on-street truck loading and deliveries.  Likewise, Vail must have a long-term strategy and plan to overcome the deterioration that I-70 now threatens.   To do nothing will resign the community to a steady erosion of its environment assets, its lifestyle, quality-of-life and ultimately property values, which could lead to its financial downfall.   

Proximity was, at one time, the unequivocal value the interstate highway brought to the community, but no longer.  The interstate showcased the community in its early years to millions of passing motorists.  It gave ease of access to Front Range skiers and part-time homeowners.   Now, Vail is well known and its natural environment has become more important than its exposure to uninformed tourists.  Motorist increasingly must compete with each other as well as with escalating truck traffic along the length of I-70 from Denver to Glenwood Springs.  

The Town of Vail has recently completed a two-year long evaluation of remedies to the noise pollution generated by interstate highway traffic.  While there are some approaches that could reduce noise levels, the impact over the long-term will be negligible.  Even then, these minimal short-term effects will only apply to limited areas of certain neighborhoods. None of the studied options, over the long-term, will reduce or eliminate noise pollution from any particular neighborhood or the community in its entirety.

The solutions offered in the PEIS by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) offer transportation solutions through Vail, but do not necessarily address a long-term vision for the community of Vail.  There is no evidence that CDOT will unilaterally bring forward any far-reaching rapid mass transit solutions that are compatible with the long-term interest of the community, until Vail itself defines and advocates its interest.  Those interests being the preservation and enhancement of the community’s fabric, its way-of-life, natural environment and economic well-being.

The potential threat from I-70 is escalating and impending.  A planning effort by the Colorado Department of Highway (CDOT) concludes that the Interstate 70, west from Denver to a point well beyond Vail, must be expanded to accommodate six travel lanes and an additional two lanes for a possible rapid mass transit system.  The department is taking its first steps to implement the planned expansion.  Construction of the $4 billion in programmed improvements is projected to occur over the next twenty years.  

The current CDOT PEIS details and expanding the interstate to six lanes from the West Vail Interchange to the Eagle-Vail Interchange with the possible option of a double bore six-lane tunnel that will bypass landslide hazards at Dowd Junction.  The expansion to six-lanes between the East and West Vail interchanges, while currently not under consideration, cannot be dismissed from happening beyond the planning window of 2025. 

Vail’s frontage roads running parallel on either side of the interstate are inadequate.  As redevelopment occurs they are being widened to accommodate additional thru and turn lanes, on-street overflow parking, sidewalks, bike paths and landscaping.  Conceivably, if in the far future expansion plans are carried through, in some areas between the Main and West Vail interchanges there could be eighteen lanes of traffic where there are now eight to ten.  

The Town of Vail has had some success in reducing noise pollution by increased enforcement of speed limits.   State transportation authorities, because of the requirements of their evaluation criteria, believe they cannot lower the interstate speed limit through Vail, even though the Town Council has exerted considerable political effort towards this objective.  

The building of barriers, such as berms and European style sound barrier walls, will only improve conditions in a few isolated locations.  As the result of a neighborhood property owner association and Town of Vail effort, which is supported by the Homeowners Association, a berm is being built to shield the Bald Mountain Road neighborhood in East Vail reducing highway noise.  However, throughout the community there are limited locations where berms of adequate height can be built.    

Residential properties located along the steeper slopes of the valley will receive minimal benefit from berms or sound walls.  State transportation authorities have eliminated program funding extensive sound walls through the community.  Even to have limited effect, studies report the sound walls would have to be nearly 20 feet high.  Many believe that these partial solutions, particularly sound walls, are unacceptable to the community.   

As interstate traffic volume grows over the coming decades the din is expected to increase.  Taller buildings located along the interstate partially shield areas of the resort Town Center.  However, residential units which front the interstate in these buildings and elsewhere throughout the community, as noise pollution increases will have diminished desirability in comparison with those that are protected from highway noise.   

Increasingly, expansion of the frontage roads will come into conflict with proposals for the expansion of the interstate further dividing the community physically.  It is not an uncommon sight to see employees running across the interstate from their housing on one side to their job or recreational activity on the other.    

Desirability, Environment, and Property Values Affected:  

Vail is today, the largest resort community of its kind in the world bisected by an interstate highway.   It can be predicted that as adverse impacts from the interstate worsen, a decline in desirability and property values of the community’s affected areas will inevitably follow.  Its edge will be lessened in its competition with other resorts.  

The options available, which propose a continued cohabitation with the interstate, are bleak and at best short-lived, when measured against a predictable decline in the community’s quality-of-life and economic value.  There is no commitment required of CDOT or Federal highway authorities to ensure the continued success of Vail’s quality of life, economy, or the health of its natural environment.  The community must fight skillfully and hard to protect its own interests.  

Road sand, used to improve vehicle traction on Vail Pass during the winter months, has migrated into nearby Black Gore Creek, a tributary of Gore Creek.  The headwaters of Gore Creek are where a significant portion of Vail’s water supply is collected.  Hundreds of thousand of tons of sand are migrating down Black Gore, smothering the native aquatic water life in its path.  Efforts have been underway for nearly a decade to stem the flow and remove the sand sludge.  Drifts of sand, several feet thick, flow from the interstate storm drain outlets 


I-70 Road Sand Siltation – Black Gore Creek:


hundreds of feet downhill before spilling into Black Gore Creek.  CDOT has been tied financially to its response to clean up and stem the pollution.   

The United States Forest Service controls the Federal public land on which the pollution is occurring.  The Forest Service continues to push, both the Federal and State transportation authorities to accelerate the cleanup.  Some water quality activists involved with the politics of the issue believe that, without congressional intervention, transportation authorities will apply less than their full effort to the cleanup and prevention plan because the polluted areas are located outside of the CDOT transportation corridor.  

Vail’s challenges are in many respects shared by all communities confronted with the proposed expansion of I-70.   There is a common thread among these communities’ vigorous objection to the negative consequences being proposed.  For the most part, the plan put forth by CDOT is criticized as inappropriate because of the plan’s dependence upon out-dated technology and solutions.  There is much to be gained by Vail seeking qualitative solutions both for itself and its neighbors along the I-70 mountain corridor.  See to Vail Daily letter to Editor from I-70 coalition member regarding Frustration with I-70 expansion. 

Long-range planning concepts: The Association recognizes that any remedial solutions to noise pollution through Vail may well prove, over the long-term, to be inadequate.  The level of responsiveness to both water and noise pollution issues outside the transportation corridor are indicative of attitudes from transportation authorities towards local concerns.   The longer these problems remains unresolved, the faster property values will decline, reinvestment in property will be discouraged, and the local population will become resigned to the mediocrity that accompanies deterioration.  Consequently, the Association and the community must now give serious consideration to solutions that permanently remove Interstate 70 from the community.   

The Association embarked on an effort to investigate strategies and methods to accomplish the removal or burial of I-70.  The purpose of the investigations is to determine if the community and the Town of Vail to plan should begin a coordinated approach to the planned expansion of Interstate 70, so that its negative influences are eliminated once the expansion is completed. 

Two concepts, with variations, are being studied.  The first would propose relocating I-70 via a  “bypass tunnel” under Vail Mountain.  The second proposal would include burying the interstate in concrete structures, within the existing right-of-way through Vail, using a construction technique known as “cut & cover.”  

Each of these approaches is extraordinarily costly and complex in scope.  They are well beyond the ability or willingness of any single governmental agency to fund.  Consequently, each approach must be evaluated within financial parameters that assume they are fully or significantly financed through the private sector.  

Financing the bypass tunnel, in theory, could be accomplished by selling development rights generated from the sale of the interstate right-of-way to private developers.  The cut & cover method would be financed through the sale of “air-rights” to developers. The cut & cover concept reconstructs the interstate in its existing right-of-way, covering it with a concrete lid on which private developments are constructed.  In other words, there could be development of several different kinds on top of the buried interstate.  

Vail has had a stressful relationship with Interstate 70 from the founding of the community in the early 1960’s.    The prospect of the 1976 Winter Olympics and in the design process for the Vail Pass segment of the interstate, varying forms of both the tunnel and cut & cover concepts were given passing consideration.  Urban planners and developers have raised the “cut & cover” issue over the years.  A serious proposal by a reputable developer was made in the early 1990’s.  Each in their turn was rejected because of various impediments, the most overwhelming being financial or regulatory.  Federal authorities have since adopted policies that provide for the long term-leasing development air rights.  

The United States has seen neither concept gain a strong foothold.  Seattle and Phoenix have examples of cut & cover built over interstate highways in their central business districts.  Boston is a notorious example of uncontrollable cost overruns of a complicated interstate project that included tunnel, bridge, and cut & cover techniques.

Cut & Cover Project - Northern Italy:

In Europe, both the tunnel and cut & cover concepts are highly advanced.  The have been used throughout the region of the Alps.  Cut & cover techniques are frequently used in avalanche prone areas.  There are being used more frequently for highway bypasses in developed communities.  Tunnel building technology is well advanced as well with the longest being over 20 miles.  There are numerous examples of bypass tunnels being built under communities to preserve their character.  European advances in construction technology have not immunized some projects from costly budget overruns.  

The success of any project of the scale being considered for Vail is dependent upon having sufficient lead-time and access to highly qualified specialists to evaluate its feasibility and design the proposal.  Advance planning, experienced construction management and the use of advanced construction technologies are critical to completing large-scale projects on schedule and within budget.  The planning and construction of either Vail proposal could require the better part of a decade to execute.  Motivating and maneuvering through the required political and financing processes could as well take a decade or longer. Nothing will happen until there is a commitment from the Vail community to begin at the beginning and pursue the concepts to their logical conclusion.   

The Glenwood Canyon project at first seemed overwhelmingly difficult and almost impossible to imagine as ever becoming reality.  We now see there have been tremendous benefits from this project in many different aspects, notwithstanding its heavy financial costs.   

Vail and the surrounding region are gaining the necessary experience and resources, because of its redevelopment and growth potential, to manage the construction of a project on a scale required to carry out either the tunnel or cut & cover concept.  The logistics of housing and providing for a large construction work force are potentially on a similar scale.  Vail’s asset values, both existing and projected, are commensurate with communities many times its size, as measured by population and land area.  Its property owners have access to major national and international financial markets.  Vail through it redevelopment is in the process of demonstrating its durability as a resort community that can attract and hold successive generations of investors,    thus breaking the maturation process, the pitfalls of which are more typical of resort communities than not. 

Central to pursuing either concept is to weigh each proposal against a “do nothing” strategy.  There is an influence, no matter which approach is chosen, upon the economy and property values.  The consequences and trade offs of each must be thoroughly analyzed and understood.  Community acceptance will turn on whether an enduring general consensus arises from a debate over a choice between a rewarding long-term vision and maintaining a status quo of decline.  The challenge is to define a financially feasible plan for new development that supplements rather than disassembles the existing fabric of the community.  The earlier this debate is resolved, the sooner Vail will be able to fend off speculation about the possibility of an inexorable devaluation in its property and lifestyle because it has chosen to do nothing. 

Tunneling Considerations:  

Already considered in CDOT’s PEIS is a short tunnel that would bypass the Dowd Junction Interchange. The $300 million tunnel project is being proposed as a bypass diverting the interstate around a large landslide area at the Dowd Junction interchange.

Tunnel Alignment Under Vail Mountain – Vail Pass, Dowd Junction, Eagle Vail:

In preliminary studies, the concept for a bypass tunnel under Vail Mountain appears to be a more efficient construction option than the “cut & cover” method according to initial investigations.  This conclusion is reached because tunnel construction is the least disruptive to the community and surrounding region.  However, it has the greatest financial risk because of a higher probability of encountering cost inflating unpredictable geologic conditions during construction.   

 The Vail Mountain bypass tunnel can be built without interrupting the operation of the interstate.  Tunnel muck could be removed directly from the construction site by railroad, eliminating any need to compound highway traffic throughout the surrounding area. 

Once the tunnel is opened to traffic, the existing 1-70 right-of-way can be abandoned and its redevelopment begun. The development of the abandoned right-of-way can proceed in stages.  The disruption to the community to redevelop the abandoned right-of-way will be less than the “cut & cover” method, because the complexity of construction will be substantially reduced.   

A prospective disadvantage is the lag-time for developers to see a return on their investment as they would be required to pay “up front” for the cost of the tunnel construction.  A funding mechanism may be necessary whereby third party financing could carry the cost of tunnel construction until private development begins to generate revenues to cover debt repayment, operational, and maintenance costs.  The preliminary rough cost of construction, $3.05 billion, is less predictable for tunnels, which will further complicate project financing. The financing mechanisms needed to provide the significant up-front funds, burdened by a long- range pay back, will need to be unique and the investment is not without risks.  

Importantly, the bypass benefits the entire community equitably because all transcontinental traffic would be diverted around the community.  It is doubtful that any proposal, which fails to benefit the entire community to the same degree, would be favorably supported. 

Cut & Cover Alignment Through Vail –  East Vail Interchange to Dowd Junction:

The I-70 bypass tunnel will give Vail the greatest control to shape its own destiny.  There are many new and varied possibilities to be envisioned and included in a long-range plan.  Once the plan is conceived, progress need not wait on the completion of the bypass.  Decisions can begin immediately leading to the development of critical supporting elements, e.g. water supplies, which are a prerequisite to the plan’s ultimate success. 

Destination traffic would access Vail by two new interchanges located at the east and west portals of the tunnel.  One would be located on Vail Pass and the other west of Vail, situated north of the Eagle River near Eagle-Vail.   

I-70 through Vail would be replaced with a four lane central boulevard having roundabouts at strategic intersections.  Portions of the existing South and North Frontage Roads can be linked becoming the central boulevard. The long planned Simba Run underpass in one of its configuration (estimated $15 million), once built, could establish the central boulevard from Ford Park to the West Vail shopping complex, now being planned as the Community Town Center.   

The creation of the major arterial is taking place now and will emerge over time in conjunction with private redevelopment.  Elements are already programmed for construction as part of the redevelopment of the Resort Town Center, Vail Village and Lionshead.  Failure of the conference center vote, however delayed one-third of the initial work.  When completed, the central boulevard will directly link the Resort and Community Town Centers.   

The “cut & cover” method is more costly, $3.46 billion, because it must be staged so the interstate and Frontage Roads remain open to traffic.  Construction will be disruptive both for the interstate and the community.  One advantage of the “cut & cover” concept is that it can be built in stages, over a longer period of time.  Staging allows a more immediate return on investment for a developer and there is the possibility of multiple developers.  However, security and environmental issues will remain once the project is completed.  These issues will affect what can be built over the interstate, potentially negatively limiting return of investment and developer interest.   There will be areas where covering the interstate cannot be justified.  There may be “noise leakage” into the community because of requirements for ventilation and related factors.   Accordingly, there may be areas of the community which do not benefit, because the benefit to property values is less than the cost of the construction or the length of time to bring the project to completion is too long, thereby creating a fatal political flaw for the proposal. 

Tunnel Implications:  

Carrying out a long-range plan in strategic phases allows the community to take advantage of opportunities as they arise by having successive projects build upon each other.  Also, it gives the Town a better guide in prioritizing its capital expenditures.  There may be secondary advantages, as the Town would not have to finance the expansion of both the North and South Frontage Roads through their entirety, saving valuable land and financial resources. Completing the central boulevard over the next decade, for example, would free large areas of the existing I-70 right-of-way for development, immediately upon the completion of the bypass tunnel, whenever it is built.  This strategy could shrink the lag-time for developers and financiers to maximize their return on investment.  

The efficiency of the existing bus mass transit system could also be improved, as bus routes could be shortened and passenger capacities increased.  The central boulevard could be upgraded to adapt to advances in automated bus technology.  Right-of-way for some advanced form of rapid mass transit could be preserved.  The rapid mass transit system should be phased and built in conjunction with new development. The development planning should follow the mix transit oriented model used throughout the world. 

The Zermatt commuter train system can be adapted to Vail using a form of quiet (electric) guide way or rail mass transit.  The central boulevard can include width for a surface or buried, single or double track guide way that compliments the resulting development and interconnects at Dowd Junction with the existing Union Pacific rail line. There would be stations along the route giving access to each major neighborhood and Town Centers. The west portal interchange should be the site for the main mass transit station to access Vail.  The mass transit station would be a point-of-transfer from the Eagle Valley mass transit system that could run between Minturn and the Eagle County Airport.  If and when an advanced technology system is build between Denver and Vail the two systems can be merged.   

The use of a rail mass transit system may not be necessary until ridership demands otherwise.  The same concept of controlled access can also be accomplished using on-road bus technology. Advancement in guide-by-wire and other advances in computer guiding technology may allow electric powered (quiet) buses to run in train configuration (platooning).  Transit stations would occur, as with the rail system, at major neighborhoods and Town Centers.  The advantage of the on-road approach is that it could be more economical to construct and operate.  

 The west portal interchange links the bypass tunnel to the present I-70 alignment at Eagle-Vail and gives access back to the existing Dowd Junction interchange where the junction between the central boulevard and Highway 24 occurs.  At this junction the west access point to the central boulevard would be located.   

The importance of the Eagle County Airport to the future of Vail cannot be overstated.  Every effort must be put to expanding service and upgrading facilities for both public and private aircraft.  A complete assessment of the airport limitations and opportunities should be included in long-range master planning efforts for Vail.  Any limitation on service could adversely affect Vail.   

Today, I-70 and the frontage roads, form an impassible barrier dividing the entire community.  This barrier can be removed once the interstate is removed.  Neighborhood access roads can then be interconnected with the central boulevard in conjunction with the development. The consolidated roadway system creates the opportunity for each neighborhood to be served by a more efficient and convenient mass transit system.   

New development built on the abandoned right-of-ways can join together neighborhoods that are now physically divided.  The social fabric of the community would be strengthened.  New development can be used to balance the “social equity” of the community by creating opportunities for affordable housing, and commercial uses needed to improve the community’s economic competitiveness, such as hotels and offices.   Sites for new neighborhood and major community amenities would also become available.   

The option to control access into the community creates opportunities to charge visitors an access fee.  Revenues collected from the fee could be used to defray the costs of the tunnel.   Emergency situations, such as the blocking of the bypass tunnel, can be readily resolved by rerouting traffic onto the central boulevard.   The boulevard can easily be converted to unrestricted access, the advantage being that speed limits can be set according to community standards, rather than according to State or Federal requirements as they are today. Managing access into the community creates the possibility of generating revenues to defray the cost of operating the tunnel through the charging of access fees or limiting visitor vehicles altogether. It provides the option for the community to emulate the European mountain resort of Zermatt.  Visitors must access Zermatt by mass transit, leaving their vehicles in a large parking structure attached to a mass transit terminal in the valley below.  Local residents can access the community by private vehicle, providing they have a parking space.   

Zermatt benefits in several ways because of its unique transportation systems; there is an aura of exclusivity, mystique and cachet created by accessing the community via mass transit.  There is a heighten sense of personal security; there is the feeling of safe sanctuary.  These factors create economic benefits.  As well, there are other less tangible benefits to the community, such as protecting the ancient agrarian culture of local villagers. Many villagers still keep their goatherds in small antique barns tucked in among the chic pensions and condominiums complexes of the resort.   

In Zermatt, there is not the sense that the community lives in self-imposed isolation, locked away from the outside world behind closed gates.  Anyone can access the community.  There are analogies for Vail to consider, such as how to preserve its working middle-class (agrarian villagers), in Zermatt and elsewhere in other resort communities in Europe and throughout the world.    

Creating a bypass for transcontinental truck traffic virtually eliminates the ever-present threat from toxic spills.  There have been spills over the years that have temporarily polluted the environment.   

The cut & cover would not be able to generate revenues from access fees as the interstate system prohibits the collection of tolls, except on improvements that provide for new capacity, such as HOV (High Occupancy Vehicles) lanes.  As well, the degree of security protection is lessened because there is vulnerability to catastrophic accidents or terrorism. 

The long-range planning for Vail and its immediate region should make the assumption that infrastructure improvement should have the capability of Vail co-hosting the Winter Olympics.  Should this eventuality ever occur, there may be financial and other resources available that would allow the building of some facilities to be advanced so that their availability would coincide with the hosting of these events.  The timing of critical projects would therefore be subject to adjustment.   

Next Steps:  The density of development required on the abandoned right-of-way should be considerable. It may double the current size of the community.  However, if other sources of revenue become available, then density could be reduced.  The community must come to terms with the prospect of having to embrace considerable growth to save itself.  The study of the amount of new development necessary to finance the plan is central to the pursuit of the proposition.  Beyond the development options, additional research is necessary to determine the effect upon the community’s economy during and after completion of the project.  Study will be required to determine if controlled access can bring additional economic benefit.  The initial overall feasibility should address the risks of either pursuing the proposition or not from the point of view of financial and technical considerations, as well as from the perspective of community sustainability and values.   

Pursuing the result of these considerations is paramount to more thoroughly understanding all the interrelated issues of such a complex endeavor.  

State and Federal officials, particularly their finance committees, will need ample evidence that the project has merit, before they will be willing to invest their support and time in the necessary technical and engineering investigation to substantiate that the project should, in fact, be built.  Considerable lobbying both at the State and National capital will be required as in all likelihood legislative action may become necessary. 

The proposal to remove or bury I-70 should be diligently pursued.  The requisite studies should be carried out, so that the community is prepared to evaluate the merits and provide constructive alternatives to any proposal presented to it by CDOT.  Furthermore, planning and design studies should be conducted that provide guidance to the community for the prioritization and completion of improvements to the Frontage Road system.  These efforts should anticipate the eventual removal or burying of I-70 through the community.   

If it is decided, after continued study, the project is feasible and right for the community of Vail, it will take unwavering commitment, unanimous support and steadfast leadership to see it through to the end.