Highway 6 work tough on business
The U.S. Highway 6 project – the freeway interchange and roundabout – has made life hell for these merchants, they complain.
“The construction knocked the hell out of us,” said Ralph Dockery, owner of Paddy’s Bar and Grill. “We used to serve 150 lunches a day, and now it’s gone down to about 100 a day.”
Business owners blame delays in the construction and the resulting traffic congestion along the highway that have caused motorists to detour through the business center and avoid the area altogether.
“Business people, construction workers, everybody, they just couldn’t get here,” Dockery said. “There was a 10 minute wait in both directions, and they just couldn’t make it for lunch, especially when many of them only have an hour or a half-an-hour for lunch. They can’t give up 20 minutes of their time to come here.”
Other business operators said the one-lane traffic all summer hurt their businesses.
“There were days when I would stand here and say, “It’s so bad. It’s so slow.’ And I would go outside, and there would be one-lane traffic. It was just stopped right in front of my store,” said Mark Haynes, store manager for the Shop “N’ Hop in Eagle-Vail. “The gridlock just killed us.”
Haynes lives in Vail, and he said the time it took him to drive to work every day was scandalous.
He also voiced concern about the 20-minute waits for motorists trying to drive through the area.
“I’m a convenience store,” Haynes said. “People used to make a quick stop here for lunch or even breakfast, but they don’t have five to 10 minutes to spare every day. They don’t want to come here and sit in traffic.”
Dockery said he fought the project for two years, saying it wasn’t needed and was a waste of time and money.
Not over yet
After months of digging up the highway to install 2,900 square feet of sewer lines, the project finally opened up. But transportation officials said at the end of the summer that it wasn’t over yet.
There were extensive problems with the utilities on this project, transportation officials said. The installation of the sewer lines was supposed to be completed in late June or early July, but the construction crews ran into more problems than expected, finally completing that portion of the project in September. In early September, motorists and business operators experienced the worst bottlenecks since the project began.
Finally, the concrete barriers forming the cramped corridor from Stone Creek Drive to the Eagle-Vail Business Center were pulled back, revealing new pavement on the westbound lanes. Still, the changeover made for little breathing room for cars and cyclists. Transportation officials suggested motorists detour via Interstate 70.
Travelers experienced one-lane traffic for more than two months, and transportation officials advised avoiding the area if at all possible.
“When the roads closed down to one lane, it hurt us,” Haynes said. “The last two years have definitely cost us a lot of money.”
Business operators were hit with more problems when accidents occurred over the summer on the interstate, and traffic was detoured through the one-lane highway.
“This thing has dragged on and on,” Dockery said.
To a crawl
In July, 52-year-old J. Francisco Carrillo of Edwards died after slamming into a truck that was stalled on the interstate just west of the Minturn exit at mile marker 170.
Drivers were rerouted at Minturn through Avon, and some travelers said it took up to three hours to get from the exit at Minturn to Edwards.
Public safety officials said the road was clear and dry at the time with proper markings for traffic control.
Still, two severe accidents occurred in the same location within 24 hours.
“That accident this summer. … Boy, that was a slow day,” said Tom Domenico, owner of Pier 13 Liquors in Eagle-Vail. “People have avoided the area, and that’s not good for business.”
People are creatures of habit, Haynes said. He worries that people will get into a routine of avoiding the highway.
“How many people have come down to go to the Shop “N’ Hop and then found out that they had to go around because of the traffic?” Haynes said. “How many people will go to other places now because of it?”
Dockery voiced similar concern.
“People develop new habits,” Dockery said. “We just need to find out what we can do to get people back to Eagle-Vail.”
Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Weather delays half-diamond completion
Christine Ina Casillas
The definite day of the opening for the new half-diamond interchange in Eagle-Vail depends on the weather, say officials.
“It depends on Mother Nature now,” said Greg Fowles, project manager for the U.S. Highway 6 half-diamond project.
The completion date for the half-diamond is Dec. 5, and transportation officials say they will make that deadline – but barely.
“We’re close, but we’re getting there,” Fowles said. “We hope to have it all under control by Thanksgiving.”
What’s left to do with the project now are “small items, little stuff,” he said.
Crews will be working on striping the road, fencing the area and installing the traffic lights at the off-ramp, he said.
“We call it punch-list items,” said Keith Powers, resident engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation. “We want to make sure it’s safe and complete and 100 percent operational before we open it.”
Other items include smoothing and grinding out the road, Powers said.
“All the additional work we said we’d complete will be done, as well,” Powers said.
The bike path on the south side of the Eagle River will be complete at the same time as the half-diamond, Powers said. The visual screening berms will be finished, as well as the road signs.
“The weather has definitely held us up quite a bit,” Powers said.