Vail council: Transit not best for I-70

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CVR Tanker Rollover PU 1-20 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.

Scott N. Miller
March 19, 2005

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, a regional lobbying and advocacy group - laid out current options state officials are pondering to relieve future congestion on the highway.

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.

Getting one proposal from that group will be difficult, Suitor said. But a two-day session in May will try to do just that. Before that session, Suitor is out looking for comments to roll into a proposal to the state.

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, primarily because of the 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."

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or