VAIL, Colorado - The mere act of exiting the highway and finding yourself at a roundabout can put a first-time visitor to Vail into a state of profound confusion.
Or as Henry Beer, principal at the consulting firm Stantec, likes to call it, a "whirlpool of chaos."
It's one of many reasons the town of Vail is considering a new "wayfinding" system - essentially a series of signs beginning on Interstate 70 that should help direct visitors to the places they're trying to go.
It would all begin on the westbound lanes, east of the East Vail entrance. The blue Vail sign on the end of the Vail Pass descent would remain, but all kinds of new and improved signs would begin shortly thereafter.
Beer, the town's consultant, said the point is to simplify the amount of information coming to guests and to make sure the information is presented at exactly the right moment.
Everything from signs on I-70 exit ramps to signs at the roundabouts to signs within the town's public parking garages would be upgraded and/or changed. One of the biggest changes would be the naming of Vail's two villages as the "town center."
That term, as it's proposed now, would be included on the sign at the main Vail exit. The "town center" exit from the roundabout would direct guests under the interstate, where they would then approach another sign at the main Vail roundabout pointing toward Lionshead to the west and Vail Village to the east.
The idea of simplification, however, got somewhat lost in this part of the presentation. Mayor Andy Daly said the current proposal seemed to lack consistency, pointing out that on one side of the highway - the north side - the sign refers to the villages collectively as a town center, while the other side refers only to Lionshead and Vail Village.
"... The concept of a town center disappears, it vaporizes," Daly said.
Beer said the concept is to get people off the freeway and under the underpass, then to give them the choice of the two primary town centers. It's all part of the overall purpose of the wayfinding system that should be designed with four main goals in mind, Beer said: Orient, clarify, simplify and celebrate.
The town will also consider overhead sign structures, per Beer's recommendations.
While Tuesday's presentation was conceptual, council members were generally agreeable on the overall direction and design theme. A few points for Beer to look at before their next meeting is whether the town center concept is confusing, how much the whole system will cost the town and whether there's money in the budget for it, and how much maintenance the signs will require.
The approval of phase one - which includes interstate signs, off-ramp signs, roundabout signs, variable message signs, Frontage Road signs, street name signs and parking garage graphics and enhancements - is expected by September.