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County airport plans DIA connection

Veronica Whitney

The idea of a seamless ride in mass transit from Denver International Airport to the county airport is taking shape.

Planners from the Colorado Department of Transportation last week told representatives of Eagle County that the idea of a mass transit option to alleviate traffic on Interstate 70 would extend to Eagle County Regional Airport.

Previous presentations had the transit system ending at Vail.

“I’m thrilled they have responded to our request of continuing the transit system all the way to the airport,” said Eagle County Engineer Helen Migchelbrink. “The important thing is to connect DIA to the county airport.”

At the meeting, CDOT planners presented several alternatives addressing traffic issues on I-70.

Highway alternatives include:

– Widening I-70 to three lanes from Dowd Canyon and Continental Divide to Floyd Hill;. several tunnels would be bored, too, near Idaho Springs, at the Continental divide and through Dowd Butte, immediately west of Vail.

– Reversible lanes from the Continental Divide to Floyd Hill.

Transit options include:

– An elevated rail system – or Advanced Guideway System.

– Buses powered by electricity that would glide in dedicated lanes between DIA and Silverthorne, leaving the rails to become conventional diesel-fueled buses, similar to the existing ECO buses.

Other alternatives been considered are to do nothing or take minimal action (including interchange modifications, winter maintenance, auxiliary lanes).

In the transit alternatives presented last week, the elevated rail system – or Advanced Guideway System – would connect C-470 to the county airport. Another option would be connecting Vail to the county airport with another type of rail transit system – InterMountain Connection -, said Cecilia Joy, regional planning and environmental manager for CDOT.

“I’m glad to see the county airport included on the alternatives,” said Michael Gallagher, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners. “The airport should be a focal point of transportation plans.”

Eagle County has Colorado’s second-busiest airport during winter and this summer a daily non-stop flight service from Dallas will start in June.

“Although more expensive, the transit alternatives could reduce

traffic on I-70 by 15 to 20 percent,” Joy said. “The highway alternatives could induce traffic growth.”

A traffic study shows that by 2025 it could take four hours on a summer saturday night to drive the 83-mile I-70 stretch between the Eisenhower Tunnel and the Bair Ranch exit in Dotsero. With the Advanced Guideway System, that trip could just take one hour and 40 minutes.

Joy estimated the cost of a monorail-like automated guideway

system between the C-470 intersection near Morrison and Vail

at $4.7 billion. Other alternatives could range between less than $1 billion to $4 billion.

“When making a decision, state officials will take into account how well the alternative addresses future congestion, environmental impact and how well it merges with the community,” Joy said.

After several public input sessions this year, a final plan will be available to the public for review in 2004. A decision would be made in 2005.

“In the end, you are the ones who have to decide on what the community needs,” Joy told county representatives. “The question to Colorado is how we want to grow in the future.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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