Frontage road parking spurs calls for action
The 2016 Vail Community Survey shows residents see the town mostly headed the right direction, with a few exceptions:
• 64 percent of respondents agree that Vail is “going in the right direction.”
• 79 percent said the town holds “about the right number” of events.
• On a five-point scale, with five being the top score, the overall feeling of safety and security earned a score of 4.4.
• On that same scale, ease of winter parking earned a 2.9.
Source: Town of Vail; RRC Associates.
VAIL — The town government got mostly good scores from this year’s Vail Community Survey. Still, there are a handful of blemishes on the town’s report card, and the sources are no surprise: parking and housing.
More than 2,000 people took this year’s survey — which the town conducts every other year — and residents could be vocal in their comments. The entire survey generated more than 300 pages of those comments.
In that novel-sized load of comments, parking takes up a 16-page chapter, with many residents weighing in on their experiences. There is a fair amount of frustration. Comments included more than a few calls to expand the town’s existing parking structures, or build new facilities, and requests for better enforcement of existing rules.
But there were a good number of comments about parking on the town’s frontage roads. That’s usually not allowed, but on particularly busy days when the town’s Vail Village and Lionshead Village parking structures are full, cars can line the frontage roads from Ford Park to the east to Cascade Village to the west.
One commenter called the overflow parking an “awful experience.” Another called it “hazardous.”
One commenter wrote, “Frontage road parking remains dangerous, though no one has been hit there … there must be a better way, but I don’t know what it is.”
There are ideas
That’s the problem town officials face, although a few ideas are getting serious consideration.
One idea is to reduce the frontage road speed limits, but that’s a more complicated job than it seems.
The town’s frontage roads are part of the interstate highway system. As such, they’re regulated by the Colorado Department of Transportation. That department and the town have to work together on everything from adding or re-locating driveways to setting speed limits.
In fact, the town and the state have a written agreement dictating how many days overflow parking is allowed on the frontage roads. And yes, the town sometimes exceeds those limits.
Lowering speed limits on days when overflow parking is allowed would take a separate agreement with the state, and would take time.
But there does seem to be some support for the idea from the Vail Town Council.
“Variable speed limits are a great short-term solution,” council member Jenn Bruno said. But, she added, other solutions may take more time. Those solutions will require working with the town’s major employers — Vail Resorts and Vail Valley Medical Center — on answers including more parking in town and, perhaps, out-of-town parking and shuttles.
“I’m looking forward to seeing more options,” Bruno said. “It’s not going to get better.”
Longtime resident Paul Rondeau has spoken several times to the council about ideas to enhance safety on days when hundreds of cars line the frontage roads.
Rondeau said he’d like to see lowered speed limits, including flashing signs, to help both pedestrians and motorists take better care along the roads.
Some residents recently voiced opposition to the idea of marked crosswalks with flashing signs, saying such signs would make Vail “too urban.”
“Safety trumps ‘too urban,’” he said.
A human touch
Aside from lowering speed limits, Rondeau would like to see the town put people out onto the frontage roads on overflow parking days, guiding guests to safer crossing points on the roads. He’s also suggested putting a few roving shuttle buses along the roads to pick up people walking to or from the resort villages.
“The touch of a human being out there makes a huge difference,” Rondeau said. “I can’t believe we haven’t had that.”
Rondeau said he’d also like some sort of system that would encourage people parked along the frontage roads on winter days to move their cars into the structures. That could put fewer pedestrians on the road after sundown.
Bruno said she and other council members appreciated all the comments that came in with the surveys, adding that she spent days reading through them.
“We need to listen to residents, second-home owners and visitors about what concerns them — that should concern us,” Bruno said, adding that people taking the survey provide “incredible direction for us.”
Rondeau said he hopes the council listens, and is able to put some ideas to work.
“All of (these ideas) are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of building a new parking structure,” he said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.