Avon to Dowd rec path on the boards | VailDaily.com

Avon to Dowd rec path on the boards

Matt Zalaznick

One of the final, most complex links of pavement that would connect Vail Pass to Glenwood Canyon is now being designed by county planners. The path would allow bicyclists to ride out of Vail, through Dowd Junction and all the way to Avon without having to use the sometimes treacherous U.S. Highway 6.

“Paths like that are not only very enjoyable and safe to ride; I think they add a lot to the quality of life in the communities,” says Adam Palmer, an Eagle resident who often commutes to work in Vail by bicycle.

Palmer says the Dowd path should be attractive to bicyclists because it won’t cross very many driveways or intersections.

“I generally don’t take bike paths that cross more intersections than the road,” Palmer says. “A lot of driveway intersections create more of a safety hazard, especially when you’re riding on the left side of the road. Traffic never sees you.”

Planners envision the path – which could cost more than $2 million to build – running north of the Eagle River, at the bottom of the hillsides behind the Eagle-Vail commercial strip. Running west, the path would link up with another path now under construction at the Village at Avon.

What makes the path costly is that it will have to cross the Union Pacific railroad tracks and the Eagle River as it winds through Dowd Junction, says Elie Caryl, trails planner for Eagle County Regional Transit, or ECO.

“The wheels are turning,” Caryl says. “But the most time-consuming things are getting the railroad crossing permit and the bridge permit.”

Several agencies are involved in building the path, including Avon, the Village at Avon, the U.S. Forest Service, the State Land Board, the Eagle County Board of Commissioners, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District and property owners along the route.

Designers will concentrate first on the stretch running from the bridge leading over the Eagle River out of Vail to the River Run and Kayak Crossing apartment complexes. Because of bridges and railroad crossings, that stretch alone could cost up to $2 million to build, Caryl says.

Building the path will require retaining walls because of possible landslides in some stretches of Dowd Junction. In other spots, the trail will have to share Highway 6 on widened shoulders, Caryl says.

“We’ll spend the winter submitting information for the various permits,” Caryl says. “We hope we can start next summer.”

ECO’s Trail Department will put up about $1 million with the agency’s Transit Department contributing another $350,000. Eagle County will put up $350,000, Caryl says.

The rest of the money needed will hopefully be raised through grants from agencies like Great Outdoors Colorado.

The project is ECO Trails’s highest priority because bicyclists have been clamoring for a better path through Dowd Junction, she says.

“I hear it all the time –“It’d be great if there was something between Vail and Avon’ and “When are you going to close the gap?'” Caryl says.

The Dowd Junction path likely would be closed during the same periods the West Vail path is closed for deer and elk migration. ECO recently avoided being forced to close that stretch of path for even longer periods of time by building a wall that would block migrating animals’ views of bicyclists and pedestrians.

The deer and elk are bothered by seeing humans, not by the sounds. That’s why they aren’t frightened from migrating by traffic on Interstate 70, wildlife officials says.

Some bicyclists, like Palmer, would like to see the Trails Department do all it can to keep the paths open during the winter.

“I really recommend finding a way to keep that bike path open during winter,” he says. “Because riding on I-70 is really dangerous.”

Further downvalley, a path will soon be complete all the way from Avon to Edwards. Two weeks ago, a trail was opened in West Edwards. Next week, a path will open along the Eagle River in west Avon.

Earlier this fall, CDOT made a lot of bikers happy by widening shoulders on Highway 6 west of the Edwards interchange.

“That was the worst area an it has been greatly improved,” Palmer says. “There was no shoulder there.”

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.

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