Crossroads of tunnel vision |

Crossroads of tunnel vision

There is as much chance for I-70 being buried as there is for Peter Knobel to demolish Crossroads and put the entire lot into a conservation easement while holding hands with Andy Wiessner.Face it, an eloquently written, well thought-out and thoroughly researched boneheaded idea is still a boneheaded idea. But allowing for a sense of fairness, and to let those involved know that it is nothing personal, let’s briefly look at the proposal, for the devil is in the details, as they say.First we have the bypass option, allowing skiers around Mid-Vail to subconsciously hum Carole King tunes (“I feel the earth move under my feet”) as they carve expensive turns a few hundred feet above a 9-mile-long vibrating tunnel. Rough estimate of costs: $3 billion, which does not include “a higher probability of encountering cost inflating unpredictable geologic conditions during construction,” thus making a realistic “but a tad rougher” estimate of $4 billion over 10 years.Option No. 2 is an 8-mile-long “cut and cover” concept stretching from the East Vail interchange to Dowd Junction. This is basically building a frame over the highway and covering it with a very long blanket of dirt and listening to developers and real estate agents shout, “Eureka!” because of their 550-acre discovery of new developable land.Rough estimate costs: $3.5 billion, but since nothing built with government funds ever comes in under budget, a more realistic estimate is at least $4 billion over 10 years.And speaking of government construction projects, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) wants to begin their own expansion of I-70 west from Denver to a point west of Vail. Their interest, of course, is in the interstate highway itself. And since tax dollars are the source for their funds, they are aware but not necessarily concerned about the individual needs of the individual towns along the way.Estimate of costs: $4 billion over 20 years.And there you have it: The state government wants to spend roughly the same amount of tax dollars on the entire stretch of highway in two decades that a local homeowners association wants to spend solely on the Vail segment in half the time.As Howie would say, “Deal, or no deal?”So, for arguments sake, let’s take it a tongue-in-cheek step further and pretend CDOT would consider such a self-serving proposal.Tunnels are funded from tax dollars (all those believing even 1/100th could be collected for this proposal in private funds in anticipation of future development opportunities need to go stand upside down in the corner and continue doing shots of liquid delusion).Tax dollars for highway projects come from gasoline taxes. We currently pay 18.4 cents in federal and 22 cents in state taxes for a gallon of gas, which works out on average to less than 15 percent of the total cost to Joe Consumer.Proponents embrace such wonderful comparisons as the “cut and cover” techniques used throughout the Alps and the electric train of Zermatt but fail to accept the taxing sacrifices mandatory to make such concepts a reality.The countries surrounding the Alps add as much as 75 percent in VAT (the oxymoronic value-added tax) to each gallon, thus taking in up to five times the gas taxes currently paid in the U.S. This is how they can at least pretend to afford such brilliant projects.It always comes down to the money, and with Americans freaking out over $3 per gallon, how do you think they would react to a doubling or tripling?I rode the Zermatt train just a few months ago. While it was certainly unique with a brand new station and such, the fair was pretty steep in spite of the tremendous taxes collected to build and maintain the silly thing. Their fantasies of quiet streets are constantly interrupted by cramped electric taxis honking their obnoxious horns for tourists to get out the way and quaint roads chock full of horse poop from all of the carriages busy crisscrossing each intersection.The “cut and covers,” on the other hand, are wonderfully unobtrusive on the environment and a breeze to fly through at 100 mph. However, many are burdened with “stop and pay” toll booths that not only impede forward progress but cost as much as $15 a shot.That’s not even chicken feed for a socialist chicken.The bottom line is that you’re better off convincing a son not to play lacrosse for fear of him becoming a rapist at Duke than you are convincing the Colorado taxpayers to pay triple for a gallon of gas so certain Vail homeowners don’t have to listen to highway noise.They need to stop wasting time on such outlandish fantasies and get back to the real duties of a homeowners association, such as creating regulations to carry out personal vendettas.Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at Vail, Colorado

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