Locals know that the Vail Valley is a great place to live, work and play. We understand, and more or less accept, that we are dependent upon Interstate 70 from a commerce and lifestyle standpoint.
Understanding the impact of I-70 to our community and facing the challenges are different sides of the same coin. Challenges from road closures, lengthy traffic delays to/from Denver, and the negative guest experience for our visitors (both day travelers and destination guests) impact our business community and rural resort community.
We all likely have friends along the Front Range — or customers who access us via Denver International Airport — who have faced poor experiences on I-70. These impacts at best leave a poor memory of their trip to the Vail Valley and, at worst, create a desire to visit other locations for future vacations.
As an example, I have a friend who is a former local and former ski racer who told me recently that he only skied eight days last season at Vail and Beaver Creek mountains and more distressing, indicated that he did not plan to renew his ski pass for the first time in 32 years. He told me, “for people who live in the city and deal with other people and traffic/lines all day, the last thing I want to do is deal with more of it while going skiing.”
This small example is concerning not only because this is a former local, but he’s also a passionate skier. Due to the increasing number of residents along the Front Range who value recreation and trips to the mountains as part of their lifestyle, the mountains are a key component of the Colorado brand and the Colorado lifestyle.
There are numerous possible solutions on the table. Possible solutions include managed traffic lanes, advanced guideway systems and efforts to change consumer behavior and traffic patterns. Vail Mayor Andy Daly recently added an intriguing option to this list, suggesting the possibility of limiting commercial vehicles during peak travel times.
The issues (and impacts) of I-70 are key to our valley’s continued economic growth and success of our business community. It’s a problem that we ignore at our peril.
As such, we are happy to invite Margaret Bowes from the I-70 Coalition as a keynote speaker at the Vail Valley Business Forum on Tuesday at Four Seasons Resort Vail from 8:30 to 11 a.m.
Bowes is the program manager of the I-70 Mountain Corridor Coalition, a nonprofit, membership organization that advocates for enhanced accessibility and mobility in the I-70 corridor through joint public and private transportation management efforts. Approximately 30 municipalities, counties and businesses along and adjacent to I-70 make up this organization’s membership, and the coalition also works closely with other partners such as CDOT, Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Motor Carriers Association.
In addition to her work with the I-70 Coalition, Bowes has provided marketing and communication services under her company, Quintessential Solutions Inc., since 2008. Prior to that, Bowes served 10 years as the deputy director of the Colorado Rural Development Council. This grassroots community development organization was made up of federal agency, state agency, tribal government, local government, as well as nonprofit and private sector members that collaborated to help rural Colorado communities find solutions to their locally defined issues. It is through this position that Bowes learned the value of collaboration, partnership and extensive networking in addressing community issues both large and small.
Access to and from the Vail Valley and Denver via the I-70 corridor impacts our community and our businesses throughout the year; Margaret is uniquely qualified to discuss I-70 and its impacts on our economy due to her experience in rural development, collaboration and partnership — not to mention working with stakeholders along the interstate corridor.
We hope to see you at the Vail Valley Business Forum on Tuesday morning as we explore I-70 transportation, in addition to other regional topics including health care, regional collaboration and workforce development. Keynote speakers on these topics will be followed by a moderated question and answer session with local leaders. Complete program details can be found at www.vailvalleypartnership.com.
Chris Romer is the president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership.