Highway 6 will go on ‘road diet’ in EagleVail to create pedestrian path
Project is part of a repaving project from Avon to Dowd Junction scheduled for 2021
EAGLEVAIL — Highway 6 through EagleVail’s business district will go on a diet in 2021 — cinching its belt from five lanes to three.
With the narrower road, the paved Eagle Valley Trail will be extended about 0.6 miles, creating a protected path for pedestrians and cyclists.
“It should have been done 10 years ago,” said John-Ryan Lockman, who was struck by a hit-and-run driver on April 19 while riding a skateboard along Highway 6 in the Eagle-Vail business district, suffering a fractured tibia plateau.
The plan, as envisioned by the Colorado Department of Transportation and Eagle County, would be part of a repaving project for Highway 6 from Avon to Dowd Junction scheduled for 2021. Eagle County says it will kick in $400,000 to $500,000 to fund the design and construction of the paved path.
The current paved Eagle Valley Trail ends just west of the Eagle-Vail business district, feeding onto the five-lane highway. It picks up again near the River Run apartments, about 1.5 miles away.
Since his accident, Lockman has heard stories from other people who have had close calls and near injuries on that stretch of road.
“There’s a huge need for it,” he said. “People are upset that (the path is) not there. It’s great to hear the county and CDOT are working toward it.”
On Tuesday, county commissioners approved $60,000 for the design of the trail section.
“It’s been a dream,” said Pedro Campos, an EagleVail resident and member of the ECO Trails Committee. “Now it seems to be closer than it ever was.”
Under the plan, a 10-foot landscaped buffer will be cut into the current road, narrowing the current road and creating a protected path. The newly designed highway would have one lane of traffic in each direction, with a turn lane in the middle.
Areas west and east of the section currently have three lanes. Karen Berdoulay, CDOT’s resident engineer for the region, said the five-lane section is an anomaly — designed at a time when there was greater traffic on that segment. Since the “half diamond” Eagle-Vail interchange opened in 2003, allowing westbound traffic to exit Interstate 70 at EagleVail, the highway in the business district is wider than what’s needed for the amount of car traffic it gets. Traffic counts show three lanes in that section will be sufficient for at least the next 20 years, Berdoulay said.
Those traffic studies will be finalized over the next year or so. Eagle County will also share plans as they progress, gathering more feedback from residents and businesses.
‘Doesn’t feel that safe’
Now, pedestrians and cyclists must walk or ride along the road or through parking lots.
“If you have children in a Burley (bike trailer) or children who are riding their bikes, all of sudden you get to the end of the trail have to go across the highway,” Campos said. “Even though it is a wide road, people are coming in and out of businesses, cars are getting close to you sometimes. It doesn’t feel that safe for children and people not used to biking alongside traffic.”
Kevin Sharkey, trails program manager for ECO Trails, recently walked the district talking to business owners, and heard overwhelming support for the proposal. Out of 52 businesses, only one wanted to give negative feedback, he said.
Eagle County will apply for a Colorado Department of Transportation grant program, called Transportation Alternatives Program, that could pay for around 80% of the path project, Sharkey said.
A separate project would be needed to connect the trail from the east end of the commercial district to River Run. That project could cost $1.5 million to $2 million due to the bridges and retaining walls that would be needed, Sharkey said.
The $7 million Eagle to Horn Ranch path project, completed earlier this year, added 6.7 miles to the trail between Wolcott and Eagle. Now, about 51 of the 63 total miles have been completed.
Besides Eagle-Vail to Dowd Junction, unbuilt sections include:
- Horn Ranch to Edwards (7.5 miles)
- Dowd Junction to Minturn (1.3 miles)
- Dotsero to Gypsum (1.7 miles)
It costs about a million dollars to build a mile of trail, Sharkey said. ECO Trails receives about $700,000 a year from sales tax. Most of that goes toward maintenance and operations of the existing trail.
Money to build the trail across the valley has come from various sources, including the county and towns of Vail, Avon, Eagle and Gypsum, as well as the Department of Transportation and Great Outdoors Colorado grants.
Avon has been undertaking a road diet project of its own. The $3.8 million effort is reducing the number of car lanes on East and West Beaver Creek Boulevard. The project is creating more crosswalks, adding parking spaces and left turn lanes into Christie Lodge and Avon Center, and reconfiguring intersections for improved visibility. The effort also creates a bike lane.
The project was supposed to be completed last year but lagged behind schedule; the eastern portion is being constructed this summer.
In terms of area, it’s the county’s smallest conservation deal ever. In terms of location, it’s one of the county’s rarest acquisitions.