Crossings back in court |

Crossings back in court

Nicole Frey

AVON – In a constant state of flux, the town of Avon always has dozens of projects in the works. But several of the town’s largest projects are based on a less than concrete assumption that Avon will get to build two ground-level railroad crossings. The battle over the two railroad crossings begins again Monday in Denver as Avon and Union Pacific head back to court. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission had approved the crossings that will connect the incoming Riverfront Village to the heart of Avon. Riverfront Village will be an 18-acre development, including hotel rooms, shops, condos and timeshares. But Union Pacific appealed the decision after announcing it will reactivate the previously dormant line. The railroad said the line needed to be used to transfer railcars from Utah to be stored in Minturn. Union Pacific said traffic on the line poses a safety risk and the crossings should be denied, but Avon representatives contended the occasional railcar coming through Avon shouldn’t prevent the town from building the crossings.Avon’s livelihood may depend on a few slabs of concrete connecting the south side of the railroad to the north. Plans for incoming developments assume the crossings will be there, and Avon has already taken private property to build them. Making way for the railroad crossings, Avon condemned the westernmost portion of the Avon Town Square property at the southwest corner of Avon and Benchmark roads.

Taking the property meant the Avon Town Square no longer met parking space requirements. So in return for taking the land, Avon built the town square some replacement parking on the east end of the property along Avon Road. Avon said because of this addition, the town square should be unaffected by the condemnation. The property also was seized to make room for a larger transportation center that will serve Avon, Beaver Creek and ECO transit. A bigger transit center will allow for more busses and the masses expected to swarm into Avon after a new gondola is built in Riverfront Village. Of course, this only works if there’s a railroad crossing funneling people from the transit center on Benchmark Road to the gondola. As Avon plans for a town center on its west end, Avon staff also assumes the crossings will allow people staying at Riverfront Village to easily access, and thus spend money, in the town center. Although Riverfront Village developer East West Partners and Avon would one day like the see the rail line turn into a light rail track transporting people from the Eagle Airport to Avon and Vail, if Union Pacific reactivates the line, it will never happen. In fact, it seems like without the crossings, a lot of projects in Avon may never happen. =======================When and where?

Court proceedings begin at 9 a.m. Monday, at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in Denver at 1580 Logan Street, office level two. The hearing may continue on Tuesday. ================================================Condemnation by the numbers• $1 million – total Avon paid Avon Town Square Joint Venture in costs and claims. • $63 – about how much Avon paid per square foot of condemned property. Transit Center by the numbers

-5 full-length busses – the minimum the new transit center will be able to accommodate.- 20 hours – the numbers of hours a day busses operate through the Avon transit center. ========================Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or Vail, Colorado

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