Eagle has an eye on its roads | VailDaily.com

Eagle has an eye on its roads

Kathy Heicher
Special to the Daily/Kathy HeicherRush hour on Eby Creek Road in Eagle takes place between 5 and 5:30 p.m., when traffic coming off of I-70 stacks up and workers employed at Chambers Avenue businesses head home.

EAGLE – By metropolitan standards, Eagle doesn’t have much of a traffic problem. The town’s first traffic light went up about five years ago. A roundabout immediately followed, keeping the traffic flowing on Highway 6 and Eby Creek Road. Still, making left turns across Highway 6 or Eby Creek Road when traffic’s heavy requires some patient waiting by drivers – and a quick foot on the accelerator.Town Engineer Tom Gosiorowski keeps an eye on the traffic patterns and numbers. He uses traffic counters, population growth figures and various traffic studies and graphs to assess just where the town’s transportation system is at now and where it should be heading. A crystal ball would probably be helpful, also.One thing he’s certain about: The town’s roads are starting to reach capacity. Couple that with a population growth rate in the 15 percent range for the past couple of years, and the numbers indicate Eagle is fast coming to the tipping point where roads likely won’t be able to keep up. An estimated $5 million worth of improvements will be needed on Eby Creek Road and another $9 million on Highway 6, Gosiorowski says. Current numbers show 16,000 vehicles per day travel Eby Creek Road, the spur road that connects Highway 6 to Interstate 70. In five years, that number is expected to increase to 27,000 vehicles per day.

“The timing and the fact that we are reaching capacity sets us up for making some pretty big improvements in the next five to 10 years,” Gosiorowski says. That need will be there regardless of whether the proposed Red Mountain Ranch shopping center is developed, he says. That complex, which will also include homes, will contribute 12 percent to 30 percent of the traffic on Eby Creek Road, he says. Regardless of what happens with Red Mountain Ranch, local residents can expect to see, somewhere down the road, some road widening, extra turn lanes and more traffic lights. Expect also to see a second interchange off of I-70 and two lanes of traffic in the roundabout – the project was designed with that expansion potential, he says. “There is a lot of traffic generated by already-approved development,” Gosiorowski says. The 1,200-unit Eagle Ranch and 200-unit Bluffs projects are being completed. Developers also are eyeing the 660-acre hay meadow adjacent to the Eagle Ice Rink.Local expectationsEd Oyler has operated a gas station at the intersection of Chambers Avenue and Eby Creek Road since 1982. He’s seen traffic grow from “nothing to everywhere.” That busy intersection isn’t the only location feeling the impacts, he says.

He says the traffic signals and the roundabout on Eby Creek have helped keep traffic flowing. Still, the headaches of the increasing number of cars are felt everywhere, he says, noting that making a turn from Brush Creek onto Highway 6 these days is a lot more challenging.Drivers complaints about traffic, however, don’t always get with engineering reality of engineering, says Gosiorowski. By engineering standards, the current amount of traffic on Eby Creek Road and Highway 6 is not all that bad, Gosiorowski notes.”Many communities would be thrilled to have that level of traffic,” he says.Still, Gosiorowski fields a number of citizen complaints about the traffic on Eby Creek. There are times of t day when drivers probably have to wait through two signal cycles before making a left hand turn onto Chambers.”The citizens of Eagle are accustomed to minimal delay in their travels,” he says. “We hear from many residents that they left more urbanized areas in part to escape traffic congestion. I believe it is important for our community to strive to maintain higher levels of service in order to maintain the quality of life to which we have become accustomed.”Planning ahead

From an engineer’s standpoint, the challenge in dealing with traffic congestion is to be proactive. “Waiting until we have a problem is not good for a community … 27,000 cars per day on Eby Creek Road will be overwhelming.”There’s some guesswork involved in keeping ahead of traffic demands. Everything depends on future land development. Gosiorowski must predict what is going to happen with empty lots; and he has to speculate about the decisions the political leaders are going to make. Financing road improvements also is a big concern. The town of Eagle relies primarily on sales tax. A per-unit “street impact fee” the town enacted in 1998 has generated $1.5 million – not quite enough to cover the cost of the roundabout. State and federal funding for transportation projects isn’t as plentiful as it once was.Developers pay for some road work. For example, Eagle ranch will spend $750,000 on a roundabout at the intersection of Sylvan Lake Road and Highway 6, which is expected to be completed this year.Who will pay for road improvements associated with the Red Mountain Ranch complex remains a point of debate between the developer and the Town Board. Typically, local governments contribute more when the development is commercial, and promises to generate income for the community.

Fitting the townAt a recent Town Board work session, Gosiorowski warned that some of the suggested road improvements are probably more than what the community would be willing to do. For example, town leaders would likely not be enthusiastic about acquiring private land in order to widen Chambers Avenue. And, while roundabouts are popular locally, they may be physically impossible to install on Eby Creek Road.Local residents also tend to dislike metropolitan-style traffic solutions. “We hear all the time, ‘We don’t want traffic signals,'” Gosiorowski says.Eagle will likely never be the kind of big city that sees 100,000 cars per day passing through key intersections, says the engineer.”But we’re going to be a lot bigger than we are now, that’s for sure,” he adds. Vail, Colorado

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