Freeway noise frazzling local lawmakers
Losing confidence the state will do anything soon to muffle the noise of Interstate 70 traffic, Vail Town Council members say they’re ready to take more aggressive action.
That now includes exploring whether the town has any grounds to sue the Colorado Department of Transportation over noise in Vail neighborhoods.
“If there’s a basis for a lawsuit, we probably ought to start pursuing it,” Town Councilman Greg Moffet said Tuesday. “A couple of people have suggested that we contact an attorney who could see if we’ve got a case under any law whatsoever.”
Lou Meskimen, who lives near the East Vail interchange, said the freeway traffic is getting louder and louder.
“It’s gotten to the point where you can’t sit outside and talk,” Meskimen said. “The town has to start listening to the public because this is the number one concern in all of the neighborhoods – the noise of freeway.”
“Lack of confidence’
Moffet said the lawsuit idea arose from the town’s lack of confidence in the state transportation agency taking any action.
“It doesn’t look like there’s anything we can do to address this problem in the near term through the state,” Moffet said Tuesday during a meeting the town had with regional CDOT official.
David Miller, the official on hand, was in Vail to talk about CDOT’s attempts to prioritize Colorado highway projects for the next 25 to 30 years. That list is called the 2030 Plan, referring to the year.
Miller, a planner, said the town’s best and most immediate option to deal with noise is to continue building the “sound berms” it has been placing alongside the freeway in East Vail to reduce noise.
“That’s probably the fastest program you have going on,” Miller said. “That’s probably the fastest program CDOT’s got going on.”
But other than the sound berms now being built in East Vail, CDOT was unlikely to deal with the noise anytime soon, Miller said.
“I really wish I could tell you there’s an expedited way, but there isn’t,” Miller said. “CDOT doesn’t move fast. You’ve got to be patient and persistent to get your projects funded.”
Councilman Dick Cleveland said the town set aside $250,000 last year to spend on silencing the freeway. The town will roll unspent funds over to next year and add another $250,000 to build a “war chest” to pay for noise projects, he said.
“We’ve allowed CDOT to turn us down and it’s time to look at taking more serious action – becoming the squeaky wheel on this side of the divide,” Cleveland said. “One way to get their attention may be to sue them.”
While Miller encouraged Vail leaders to begin lobbying for local projects, Mayor Ludwig Kurz and other Town Council members said noise is a more pressing problem and needs swift attention.
“We have a much more immediate problem here,” Kurz said. “We can’t wait until 2030.”
Among the other initiatives the town is exploring, council members say, is convincing state and federal transportation agencies to lower the 65 mile-per-hour speed limit through Vail to 55 or 45.
“It isn’t a matter of quality of life, it’s a matter of quality of livelihood in a resort community,” Kurz said
Meskimen says the town not only has to lower the speed limit to 55, but the Town Council has to encourage Vail police to enforce the law.
“The town doesn’t want a bad image from enforcing the laws in effect concerning the interstate,” Meskimen says.
Lower speeds would make the freeway quieter—and safer, he says.
“The most dangerous section of the I-70 freeway corridor throughout the country is West Vail – Dowd Junction,” says Meskimen. “Why not keep a steady flow of 55 mph through the whole area and save accidents and lives?”
Town Councilwoman Diana Donovan, who moved to Vail before the freeway was built, said it was “absurd” to have a major interstate running through the Rocky Mountains.
Deena DiCorpo, who lives in West Vail, says the noise is sometimes unbearable, particularly at night. She said the freeway has become even noisier since signs were posted warned truckers of local noise ordinances.
“The truckers should realize they’re hurting the working people of Vail, not the guests,” DiCorpo says.
Miller said the town would have to lobby both the state agency and the Federal Highway Administration to get a new speed limit. The town also would have to convince the state agency noise walls in Vail are a priority among statewide transportation projects, as CDOT’s noise wall program has been discontinued.
Moffet, who’s been among the most vocal about the interstate’s noise, said there isn’t room to build berms in front of all of Vail’s neighborhoods.
“It’s become extremely problematic,” says Moffet, who lives near the freeway in the Matterhorn neighborhood.
The town also should more strictly enforce its noise ordinance – and perhaps even strengthen the law to force drivers to slow down on their way through Vail, Moffet said.
Moffet said he hopes the Town Council will vote on some of these noise initiatives before the November election in which at least four seats are up for grabs – including his.
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highway congestion seen as economic threat
By Matt Zalaznick
Congestion caused by skiers and snowboarders fleeing Vail and heading back to the Front Range after busy ski weekends is being increasingly labeled a threat to Vail’s economic future.
In a discussion with state transportation officials Tuesday, Town Council members said the traffic jams were sucking money out of the pockets of Vail business owners.
“People don’t feel comfortable spending a couple of extra hours in town,” Town Councilman Bill Jewitt said.
While the Colorado Department of Transportation is prioritizing a list of transit projects for the next three decades, Town Councilman Rod Slifer said the town needs help with congestion in the next few years.
“Tourism and the economy will be hugely impacted if something isn’t done a lot sooner than you’re talking about,” Slifer told the transportation officials. “Traffic on Sundays, when everybody is going back, is untenable now. By 2003 people will stop because it will be such a difficult experience.”
Jewitt, however, said there’s a benefit in keeping the drive between Vail and the Front Range slightly inconvenient.
“It we make it too easy, we become a bedroom community for Denver,” he said.
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