Can skiers park in Vail?
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” Cars circle the mid levels of the Vail Village parking garage in search of a spot, but the structure is surprisingly full ” and the mountain hasn’t even opened.
The busy garage has some town officials worried that with the start of the ski season, the town’s two parking structures will be a mad house come Friday.
Vail Town Councilwoman Margaret Rogers said she is concerned that all the construction trucks parked in the garage won’t clear out in time for opening day.
“I want a plan B for skier parking,” she said. “It’s very filled right now.”
Rogers suggested banning construction vehicles from parking in the garages, but other council members and staff thought that might be difficult to enforce.
To free up space in the garages, the town is also working on plan that would allow local workers to get permits to park on the Frontage Road.
With building projects ongoing throughout the winter, Vail Mayor Dick Cleveland said the town expects as many construction workers in Vail in the winter as in the summer.
The town wants to free up as many of the spaces as possible for skiers and other visitors. Last ski season, cars overflowed onto the Frontage Road almost a third of the time.
The town’s staff has been working with construction companies to get construction workers to carpool to work sites once ski season starts, said Vail Director of Public Works Greg Hall.
“We’re really encouraging high-occupancy use (such as bringing vanloads of workers),” Hall said. “Some companies have talked about doing buses and driving the workers in.”
The town sells different parking passes, including discounted employee parking passes for local businesses, which are available to local construction companies.
Vail-based JL Viele Construction, which is working on a project at Lions Square Lodge, already has plans to shuttle its workers into Lionshead by van.
The company also has a few parking permits for the garage, said Lindsey Kraft, an assistant project manager.
“The town really encouraged the van-pooling,” she said. “I don’t think it will be a problem (with skier traffic). The town has put a lot of options out there for people.”
Cleveland suggested a permit program that would allow local workers to park on the Frontage Road.
The town is working on a pilot program with the Colorado Department of Transportation, which is in charge of the Frontage Road. The plan would require approval from the Federal Highway Administration, but state transportation officials said they would support the program.
The town hasn’t worked out details as to where on the Frontage Road cars could park, or how much permits would cost ” although federal and state rules do not allow the parking to profit the town, so charges would be “minimal,” Cleveland said.
Frontage Road parking would be a “huge deal” for village workers, said Blake Knisely, a manager at American Ski Exchange in Vail Village.
The store has a few parking passes for employees, but most drive up to Vail, then take the bus. Knisely said he often ends up parking at Ford Park or the soccer fields on weekends.
“If you’re working in the afternoon, it’s a pain because more (parking permits) are sold than there are spots,” he said. “Another thing is, you’re expected to be at work on time, but in winter with the bus and with the weather it’s not your control.”
Allowing parking on the Frontage Road has it’s challenges, including dealing with safety and regulation concerns, Hall said.
The town would have to find a way to communicate the new policies and some long-time Vail skiers would have to adjust, he said.
“Right now the message is that if it’s overflowed in the garage, it’s OK to park on the Frontage Road,” he said.
Cleveland said that an abundance of cars in Vail could be welcome news when everyone is worried about the skier economy.
“I hope we have a parking problem this winter,” he said. “We’ll do everything we can to deal with it.”
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.