Eagle-Vail "half-diamond’ back on track
The project, which has survived months of financial doubt, will be funded by the state and work could start on the new Interstate 70 ramps by late August, says Bob Wilson of the Colorado Department of Transportation said.
“We don’t have money to go and build ramps just for fun. We build them because we see a need,” Wilson says, adding that projects like this one are always meant “to improve and safety access.”
The half-diamond appears as unpopular as ever, however, among Eagle-Vail homeowners.
“Living off (U.S.) Highway 6 is tolerable at this point. The traffic is there and the pollution is there, but it still makes a nice home,” says Madeline Day, who lives part-time at Sunriver. “The thought of increasing traffic and the increase in pollution and noise will make it really unpleasant –and unlivable.”
Residents are currently being surveyed about the half-diamond interchange, says Tricia Lucero-Blaikie, an Eagle-Vail Property Owners’ Association board member. Questions address the half-diamond – and a “full-diamond” interchange expected to be built less than mile west in Avon.
Do favor both intersections, just the half-diamond, just the full-diamond or neither interchange?
Responses from about 150 residents, or about 10 percent of Eagle-Vail’s homeowners, conclude that:
? 65 percent are against both interchanges.
? 15 percent are in favor of both interchanges.
? 16 percent favor just the full-diamond.
? 0.01 percent, or just two residents, favor just the half-diamond.
“There were 120 people at our property owners’ meeting last week, and when we asked who wanted the half-diamond, maybe two people raised their hands,” Lucero-Blaikie says. “It’s sad that this is going to effect our community and we’ve never been asked. We haven’t been included in the decision making process.”
Making the half-diamond so unpopular in Eagle-Vail, perhaps, is the ramps themselves. Unlike full interchanges, it would only offer an eastbound on-ramp and a westbound off-ramp, meaning it will be convenient only for motorists traveling between Eagle-Vail to and from the east.
Eagle-Vail residents, for example, wouldn’t be able to get on I-70 and head west to Edwards or Eagle; and Eagle-Vail residents coming from Eagle wouldn’t be able get off I-70 at the half-diamond.
Last summer, the Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District’s board of directors threatened to sue CDOT to hold-up construction of the interchange. The board dropped their threats when CDOT agreed to widen stretches of U.S. Highway 6, pave new turning lanes and install at least three new stoplights.
But the purpose of the half-diamond is not to annoy homeowners in Eagle-Vail, Wilson said. The half-diamond ramps are supposed to calm traffic in the often hectic and sometimes hazardous Dowd Junction interchange a mile or so to the east, Wilson said. I-70 through Dowd Junction is frequently closed –particularly during the winter –because of car crashes and other pileups.
On March 8, for example, a sudden and driving snowstorm caused a string of pileups at Dowd Junction and in Vail that shut both sides of I-70 for a few hours. No one was seriously injured, but the wrecks –which included a big rig that swerved from one side of the interstate to the other –caused a major disruption in the valley.
“One way or another, the half-diamond is funded,” Wilson says. “If it goes on regular schedule, work will begin most likely at the end of August or early September.”
CDOT will begin seeking bids on the project in July. The department wanted to start building the half-diamond last summer, but the project was derailed when bids received from contractors were deemed too expensive.
This winter, a state budget crisis almost sunk the project entirely.
Wilson says the half-diamond could take about two summers to build, depending on weather delays and winter construction shut downs.