Eagle takes step in tackling traffic | VailDaily.com

Eagle takes step in tackling traffic

Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyTraffic waits at the often congestion Eby Creek Road stoplight after exiting from Interstate 70 in Eagle.

EAGLE, Colorado ” Eagle’s latest plan to address traffic concerns can’t come quickly enough for people like Angie VanDyck of Eagle.

Every night as she returns home from her job in Edwards, VanDyck hits the evening traffic jam at the Interstate 70 westbound Eagle off ramp. It’s something she dreads every commute.

“It’s a nightmare. It is actually very scary. You are sitting there, pulled over as far as you can be with the Interstate traffic humming along at 75 miles per hour. People don’t realize that the cars are already stopped,” she said.

VanDyck’s concerns are shared by many commuters. That’s why building a so-called “stacking lane” at the I-70 exit is the top priority on a list of Band-Aid fixes the town of Eagle is planning in the near future.

The stacking lane will resemble the main Vail eastbound exit, providing a clear lane for exiting vehicles, Town Engineer Tom Gosoirowski says.

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With additional striping clearly delineating two traffic lanes on the ramp itself, drivers will be able to exit I-70 more efficiently. Construction on the project could begin as early as this summer.

But Gosoirowski notes the I-70 issue is only one small part of Eagle’s overall traffic problem. The bigger issue ” millions of dollars worth of improvements ” are the focus of a soon-to-be launched comprehensive study of the Eby Creek Road corridor from U.S Highway 6 to Market Street.

The study is being spearheaded by the Colorado Department of Transportation, which owns the Eby Creek Road right-of-way. The agency has contributed $500,000 toward the study, with the town and Eagle County picking up the remainder of the estimated $1 million tab.

“Even though it is the state’s road, the growth the town has approved has created the impacts on it,” Gosoirowski says.

The study will present traffic solutions for the long-term. The engineers writing it could well recommend large scale construction such as roundabouts or traffic lights and additional lanes at Chambers Avenue, north and south of I-70 and at Market Street.

Gosoirowski plans to form a citizen group to work with the engineers. Additionally, he plans a series of public hearings to educate citizens about what’s being contemplated.

Even at this early stage, Gosiorowski is sure of one thing ” Eagle’s traffic solutions will be costly. He expects the final price tag to be in the $15 million to $20 million range. Eagle’s entire 2008 budget is $5 million, which covers everything from water treatment to snow plowing to salaries and benefits.

The town needs partners to pay for traffic improvements, he says.

Looming traffic costs also have the town closely scrutinizing interim improvements.

“We don’t want to spend too much money on these early action projects because we are going to have to save up a lot of money for the long-term projects,” said Gosoirowski.

Market Street backups are indicative of how traffic improvements in one area of town can result in additional problems elsewhere. In an attempt to keep traffic from backing up on I-70 during the evening commute, the town and the department of transportation adjusted the traffic light timing on Eby Creek Road.

While the new timing helps along I-70, it makes it more difficult for cars to make left-hand turns off Market onto Eby Creek Road.

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