This story has been corrected.
VAIL — Anything involving an interstate highway is complicated, expensive and time-consuming
The Vail Town Council recently approved a $400,000 contract with Centennial-based consultants Felsburg Holt & Ullevig to study various parts of a possible road link under Interstate 70 between West Vail and Lionshead near the Simba Run condos. The study will investigate potential environmental problems with the project, as well as ways it can serve cars, bikes and pedestrians. The Colorado Department of Transportation will pick up about $125,000 of the study’s cost, as well as provide some “in-kind” services from its own staff.
The Simba Run underpass has been talked about for years. According to Vail Public Works Director Greg Hall, a new way to link the town’s north and south frontage roads would potentially cut traffic at the Main Vail and West Vail interchanges, could make trips from the north to south sides of the interstate more efficient for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, and could help cut response times for police and fire vehicles on emergency runs.
The big question is cost. Hall said the last rough estimate for the project was about $20 million, which would fund new frontage road roundabouts on the north and south sides, as well as the roadway under the interstate and pedestrian paths.
The town of Vail has committed to put up 30 percent of the project’s cost, and the project is eligible to use “tax increment financing,” the kind of property tax system used to pay for public improvements in Lionshead a few years ago. But either the state or federal government has to pick up the rest of the project’s cost. Pools of money are available from both sources, but there are always far more applicants than money to go around.
Hall said the town has an application into the state, under its “Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships” program. A 30 percent stake in the project could help sway decision makers in Denver. If not, Hall said the current study — expected to take a year — is being done in accordance with federal standards.
Besides cost and time, projects along interstates require a lot of just the right kind of paperwork.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2939 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.