I-70 debate fires up in Clear Creek
EVERGREEN – Ann Callison of Denver shook her two ski passes at Colorado Department of Transportation officials at a meeting Wednesday night in Evergreen, saying that if the agency widens Interstate 70, she will no longer ski in Colorado.”I haven’t used my Colorado card (this season),” she said. “It raises my blood pressure too much to get on this highway. “And if you announce that you’re going to widen – to urbanize – this highway, you can tell Colorado Ski Country USA, and you can tell Adam Aron I will not continue to buy a Colorado Pass. I will stop skiing in Colorado,” she added, referring to Vail Resorts’ executive. Her comments were among about 40 made during a four-hour public forum at Clear Creek High School, where more than 250 citizens from areas between Frisco and Denver gathered to learn about the states ideas for alleviating congestion and improving safety on I-70 between C-470 in Golden and Glenwood Springs.The public forum was the first of 10 the department of transportation will hold in the next two months to dispense information and gather input from citizens affected by the proposed construction. Ranking altnerativesThe state department of transportation has 12 proposals, many of which involve some sort of highway widening while maintaining enough room along I-70 to accommodate a rail system. Others concepts include buses.
And one alternative calls for stacking highway lanes in the narrow canyons through Clear Creek County – the least desirable option for many Clear Creek County citizens.They argue that widening the highway could require condemnation of homes and businesses, increase noise and air pollution, and result in an obsolete project by the time it is complete, something transportation officials have admitted in an environmental study.Many who spoke said the state should build some sort of high-speed transit that would put Colorado in the forefront of modern technology. That concept, however, was voted down the last time the idea landed on a statewide ballot. Others wondered if people in the West, where people are fiercely independent, would use such a system.”I do not favor mass transit,” said William Miller of Idaho Springs. “My ATV, my canoe, my sailboat, I cannot get them on a bus. My destination would not be the station, but off the beaten path, and then I’d be on foot.”Some questioned the equity of the economic benefits that resort communities would reap at the expense of Clear Creek County. Others complained the state’s studies only deal with economic and social impacts before and after construction, but not during the work.And still others asked the department of transportation to considering lengthening its vision from the year 2025 to 2050.Will the people come?
Most were concerned about the time it will take to complete the project – some even said many citizens will spend the rest of their lives in a construction zone.”Who has 10 to 20 years of their lives to wait for some sense of normality to return to our communities?” said Gail Drury-Murphy, of the historical society in Dumont.Sandra Sajbel of Evergreen said if the highway is widened, more people will visit resort communities. She questioned if those areas could handle that additional traffic.”When I see ribbons of highway being widened, I have to ask, ‘Are we willing to destroy the Colorado everyone comes here to enjoy and admire?'” she said. Other concerns expressed included the $4 billion cap the transportation agency’s executive director, Tom Norton, has placed on the work. Some said the process was manipulated to benefit the asphalt industry – an accusation often directed at transportation officials and Gov. Bill Owens.”The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and again and expecting a different result,” said Mary Jane Loevlie of Clear Creek County. “We told you the same thing 16 years ago, and you keep doing the same thing. It’s not going to work. You’re not listening to us. If you listened to us … we’d be six years into the project and building a transportation system for the 21st century.”Clear Creek County commissioner Ed Rapp, to whom others gave their allotted three-minute period to speak, listed numerous questions criticizing the department of transportation.”We are not obstructionists, and you are not bad people,” he said. “The difference is that you come from an institutional culture versus here, where we have to live, work and nurture these mountains for future generations.”
Clear Creek County commissioner Harry Dale said he doesn’t know how far the county will go to get what they need and want, but said litigation, while not a first choice, is not out of the question.”All the jurisdictions are concerned,” said. “For most people in the corridor, this will be the biggest impact in their lifetime.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado