I-70 panel: Highway improvements won’t meet demand | VailDaily.com

I-70 panel: Highway improvements won’t meet demand

Bob Berwyn
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” Panelists speaking Thursday evening in Frisco said the future of the I-70 corridor will likely include a high-speed transit component ” the only alternative that offers any significant long-term relief to congestion on the busy highway.

The collaborative effort currently under way to develop a preferred alternative for I-70 is definitely tilting toward transit, said Silverthorne resident Karn Stiegelmeyer, who sits on the task force charged with devising a workable plan for the corridor.

“You have to look at true cost of auto travel … we need to have a change of perception and move over toward considering transit,” Stiegelmeyer said.

“You have look at the true cost of maintaining asphalt.

It may be much higher than the cost of maintaining a transit system,” she said.

The latest round of planning began when Governor Ritter’s administration backpedaled on the Colorado Department of Transportation’s previous highway-widening scenario.

A group looking for a consensus-based solution to I-70 woes is slated to finish up by late May or early June, and transit will be high on the list, according to Breckenridge resident Eric Turner, who also serves on the panel.

George has promised that, whatever option the collaborative working group comes up with will be included as part of the transportation agency’s preferred alternative, Turner said.

According to Turner, George said, “Your decision will be what we put out as preferred alternative. If you’ve got something, we’ll go forward with it.”

After more reviews of the draft study, a final I-70 decision is due by the winter of 2009.

After that, a second level of more detailed studies will pinpoint site-specific impacts and lay out the implementation of improvements.

Cost is still the big issue for any I-70 option, and the panelists pointed out that it’s a statewide issue.

Colorado voters may get a chance decide on transportation funding via a 2009 ballot initiative.

Options include a gas-tax hike, increased registration fees, a lodging tax, a sales tax, or an increase to the oil and gas severance tax.

Even a tax on ski passes has been under discussion.

Recent maneuvers by Front Range lawmakers to impose a toll on I-70 travelers were spurred by the perception “that nothing is happening,” said I-70 Coalition director Flo Raitano.

But along with laying out a long-term vision for road improvements and transit, the I-70 Coalition is also seeking to implement short-term traffic demand management measures to at least prevent peak-hour congestion from worsening, Raitano said.

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