"Half-diamond’ construction imminent | VailDaily.com

"Half-diamond’ construction imminent

Matt Zalaznick

Work is set to begin early next month on the embattled, $6 million Interstate 70 interchange where the freeway passes over U.S. Highway 6 in Eagle-Vail.

The interchange is going up despite fierce opposition from a batch of Eagle-Vail residents who say the interchange will swamp their neighborhood with traffic. But engineers with the Colorado Department of Transportation say traffic will increase by about 35 percent through Eagle-Vail in the next 20 years – with or without the interchange.

Endorsed by a 2-1 vote of the Eagle County Board of County Commissioners and supported by other, less vocal residents of Eagle-Vail, it is called a “half-diamond” because it only will have an eastbound on-ramp headed toward Vail and a westbound off-ramp from Vail.

The chief purpose of the half-diamond, CDOT engineers say, is to reduce congestion on I-70 in the tight curve at Dowd Junction – a frequent scene of accidents, particularly when roads are icy in the winter.

The half-diamond would force fewer eastbound drivers to get on I-70 at Dowd Junction, where the eastbound on-ramp and merge lane is one of the most dangerous stretches freeway in the state. Engineers, in fact, call Dowd Junction “substandard.”

The half-diamond, meanwhile, is not be confused with the Village at Avon “full-diamond interchange now under construction less than a mile to the west in east Avon. That interchange, set to open in the late summer or early fall of 2003, will allow drivers to go in all four directions. It is meant to bring shoppers straight to a sprawling shopping complex.

Work on the half-diamond soon will start on Highway 6 under the I-70 overpass, says CDOT resident engineer Keith Powers, beginning with a wall and sewer pipes that pass under the two-lane highway.

“Looks like Highway 6 is going to get torn up first,” he says.

By late fall, a traffic light should be installed at the intersection of Stone Creek Drive and Highway 6, Powers adds. The light is a safety concession made by CDOT to ward off a lawsuit threatened by the Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District.

And because the bid for the half-diamond came in lower than expected, CDOT will have extra cash to make further safety improvements to appease disgruntled Eagle-Vail residents, such as lowering the 45 mph speed limit on Highway 6.

Powers, meanwhile, says CDOT will work with the contractor, SEMA Construction, to prevent dust and noise that have become problems with other highway projects. A Catch-22 is that work done during the day can tie up traffic, but work done at night, which won’t cause congestion, is sometimes too noisy for neighbors.

“We’ll do our best to work with them to see if we can be ahead of the curve,” he says. “There are no guarantees though.”

Matt Zalaznick covers public safety, Eagle County Courts and Avon/ Beaver Creek. He can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.

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