Detailed plan the key to Vail streetscape project |

Detailed plan the key to Vail streetscape project

Scott N. Miller

There have been military campaigns that haven’t been planned as well as the work planned for Vail Village this spring.

Almost two years of preparation have gone into planning for what will end up to be a bit less than 12 months of work, to be carried out over the next two springs and two falls.

“It’s been an intense level of planning,” said Linn Schorr, engineering manager for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.

Town of Vail planner Scott Bluhm said the project schedule involves both tight deadlines and enough flexibility to accommodate the inevitable detours that hit a project as extensive as this one. And this is an extensive project.

With a total budget of about $6.5 million, most of it coming from the town and water district, the two-year project involves an almost complete re-do of the streets in Vail Village, from public art to utility lines and just about everything in between, including an extensive in-street snowmelt system through much of the village, including Bridge Street and Wall Street.

While the planning for the project put actual construction into the town’s shoulder seasons of spring and fall, Bluhm said town officials are still estimating that sales tax collections from the construction zones will drop as much as 50 percent while the work is going on.

The concern for business has dictated much of the schedule.

For instance, work on the first phase will begin April 5, with no street closures scheduled until after Vail Mountain closes April 18. From then on, though, the closures and restrictions start. Most notably, the Covered Bridge will be closed from April 26 through May 12. Temporary water and sewer lines will be run above ground during the first phase of construction.

The first phase, though, has a firm ending date: June 19. Bluhm said heavy construction work will be done by that date, with perhaps an additional week of cleanup and detail work to follow.

To get as much done as possible, work is scheduled from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

The schedule has some Vail business owners waiting to see what happens when the machines start up.

“It’s going to be tough, but this has got to be done,” said Ghiqui Hoffman, owner of the Laughing Monkey on East Gore Creek Drive.

Hoffman said she’s been impressed with the way the town and water district have worked with business owners on the project. Still, she said, only time will tell what kind of effect the work will have on her business.

“I don’t see it as much of a problem now,” Hoffman said. “Later on, though, I’ll have to do what makes economic sense.” Depending on how business goes, that decision might involve closing the shop during construction season.

With that concern in the back of her mind, Hoffman said the town and business community need to start a marketing effort to keep people coming, and, perhaps, to get them back when the work is finally done in the fall of 2005.

For now, though, the people charged with getting the project done have other worries. With work ready to start in a little more than three weeks, much of the heavy planning has been done. Several questions remain, though.

For Bluhm, the big variable is weather. While some snowstorm slack has been built into the schedule, a season like the spring of 1994, when the valley had measurable snowfall or rain for 40 straight days, would be a nightmare.

The other potential nightmare is the 42-year-old surprises that might be sitting under the streets of the village. Bluhm noted there’s no such thing as an accurate “as-built” document for what exactly is under the streets. To tap as much knowledge as possible before digging starts, Bluhm said he and other officials have tried to contact people who were involved in the original construction in the village. That historical research has included standing outside the Red Lion with 40-year-old photos to determine what might be there.

Schorr said the water district has one major concern: “We need to make sure any infrastructure under this be as bomb-proof as possible,” she said. “Once the streetscape and heating system is in, our ability to repair it will be very expensive.”

Helping make that happen is part of the intense planning the project has had. Perhaps the biggest driving force, Schorr said, is the fact that, “Everybody on this project is thinking, ‘I don’t want to get back in there for the rest of my career.”

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