"Jake brakes’ get a reprieve
Tuesday, after a tense, at times contentious discussion, the Vail Town Council voted 5-2 to delay until Dec. 2 any decision on Ordinance No. 28, which would fine truck drivers up to $999 for applying jake brakes on Interstate 70 through town.
“Hopefully, confrontation will turn to collaboration and cooperation,” said Councilman Kent Logan, who ultimately supported the delay, along with fellow council members Greg Moffet, Kim Ruotolo, Dick Cleveland and Rod Slifer. “Our gesture is of conciliation, saying we’ll work with you.”
“Immediate and imminent danger’
Ordinance 28, if adopted as written, would amend Vail’s town code, making it unlawful to use a “dynamic braking device” on any motor vehicle on I-70 within town limits “except for the aversion of immediate and imminent danger.” The previous Town Council, led by Moffet, drafted the legislation to “send a message” to the trucking industry that “the town is serious” about doing something about the noise emanating from I-70.
Most vocal again Tuesday, by far, was Moffet, a veritable lightning rod on the issue of I-70 noise for the past few years. Moffet lives in Vail’s Matterhorn neighborhood within 100 feet or so of the interstate’s eastbound lanes.
He was the first to speak this time around, asking his colleagues, basically, to disregard a pilot project the town manager, Stan Zemler, and his staff have proposed that would pursue noise abatement directly via other methods.
Moffet called that plan “a big group hug.”
“I don’t believe there’s going to be anything done without a gun to their heads,” Moffet added, referring to the trucking industry – specifically the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, represented Tuesday by its president, Greg Fulton. “Do you honestly believe truckers are going to change their behavior?”
“This isn’t just a show’
Cleveland agreed, to an extent, saying the ordinance has gotten the attention of the industry, but that Zemler’s proposal – which includes a memorandum of understanding between the state trucking association and the town of Vail detailing a long list of cooperative projects – ultimately is “the only way we’ll get results.”
“I think it’s important to demonstrate clearly this isn’t just a show,” said Cleveland. “But let’s do something we can enforce while we work on other things.”
Council members Diana Donovan and Ludwig Kurz opposed the delay, however, with the former saying reiterating what she has said for weeks – that the issue really is more about safety and the ordinance itself is “unenforceable” and nothing more than “scare tactics.”
“We’re using a scattergun, threatening approach here,” said Donovan. “We need to be partners with the drivers and get them on our team, and we can do that by talking about safety.”
“Willingness to work together’
Fulton, meanwhile, faced the council bravely with the objective of having the council vote to withdraw Ordinance No. 28 from the bargaining table altogether. He agreed with Donovan, saying it’s really a matter of safety, and that reducing – and enforcing – the speed limit through Vail for all vehicles really is the way to go.
Ultimately, Fulton gave way, saying no matter what the council decided Tuesday he’d have to face his association’s board of directors, which he was scheduled to do Wednesday.
Indeed, Fulton said Wednesday the association’s board has agreed to enter into an agreement to work with the town of Vail on ways to reduce traffic noise on I-70.
“We’ll give it our best shot. We want to work with the community and try for a win-win situation,” Fulton said. “Our board members have expressed a willingness to work together. They know they don’t have to do anything, but they want to send the right message, too.”
A memorandum of understanding
Vail’s town manager, Stan Zemler, proposes an approach to reducing traffic noise on Interstate 70 that’s far different than Ordinance No. 28.
He and members of the town’s staff, after meeting in Denver with the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, have drafted a memorandum of understanding in which the town and the association would “work collaboratively on a series of of education, enforcement and engineering items to reduce noise and improve safe travel along I-70.”
Key to the agreement, an option the council is considering, is a year-long pilot program, in conjunction with the Colorado State Patrol, beginning Dec. 1. After an initial media campaign, Vail police would begin a four-month campaign of traffic stops “with an educational component” consisting of warnings; after that, the police “would transition to a more restrictive phase,” including citations, which could approach the maximum allowable fine in Vail of $999.
Quarterly reports would inform the council as to the pilot program’s progress.
Meanwhile, other steps would be taken, including:
– Sending town staff members to a state transportation commission meeting.
– Researching a “temporary sound wall” to determine its effectiveness.
– Developing and researching a “glass wall demonstration project” that would seek federal funding for technology already being used in Europe, primarily in Switzerland.
– Asking state engineers to conduct an I-70 “speed assessment,” with the ultimate goal being a reduction of the speed limit for all vehicles through Vail.
– Further studying the financial implications of “burying I-70” through town.