VAIL — We’ll probably know by the end of September whether or not funding will be available for a long-proposed underpass under Interstate 70 near Simba Run. Before that happens, though, town of Vail officials have started studying both the underpass and the future of two of the town’s roundabouts.
The town, along with the Colorado Department of Transportation, has started a “Planning and Environmental Linkage” study for the Interstate 70 corridor and the frontage roads between the main Vail and West Vail interchanges. Whether or not funding for the underpass is approved, the study will be needed for future upgrades to the roundabouts at those interchanges.
Several maps and charts were on display at a town open house Monday to show ideas to the public. Jeremy Hahn, of Felsburg Holt & Ulevig, a Front Range-based consulting company doing the study, said if a federal environmental study is eventually needed, then the study starting now will fit into what the feds want.
That study could be ramped up soon. Martha Miller, the regional engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation, said funds have been requested from a program called “responsible accelerated maintenance partnerships.” That program uses a combination of federal and state funds, along with either local government or private-sector matching funds, to tackle projects outside the state’s regular maintenance and construction schedules.
In a way, the program is somewhat like open space and parks funding through the state’s Great Outdoors Colorado program, in that a pledge for a significant local match can help make a project eligible for funds. In Vail’s case, Miller said the town has pledged a “substantial” match.
The roundabout improvements are still in the gauzy future. The underpass project, on the other hand, seems more concrete and drew more solid opinions.
Longtime Vail resident Bob Armour said he’d prefer to see the underpass completed first, which will provide a chance to evaluate how a new link between the frontage roads affects traffic at the roundabouts.
Meanwhile, employees and residents at Simba Run have varying opinions about the plans for the underpass, since the project’s location is just outside the driveway to the condo complex.
Simba Run general manager Farrow Hitt said some condo owners there want to know more about possible increases in traffic and noise. Others are concerned about additional Frontage Road parking.
Simba Run employee Michelle Davis said she understands some owners’ wariness about the project, but added she’s a full-on supporter since it would make running shuttles to the resort village much easier, as well as provide an easier way for cyclists and pedestrians to get from the north to the south sides of the interstate.
Diana Mathias moved to Vail in the early 1980s, and she said there’s been talk about doing the underpass since she arrived.
“It’s amazing this is still on the table,” she said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2939 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.