Letters to the editor
December 4, 2003
a rear-view mirror
Tom Norton and CDOT are marching backwards into the future. Rather than take a long-term look at transportation problems along the I-70 corridor they have opted to stick their collective heads in the sand and ignore the mounting troubles. The I-70 of 2025 will be just as bleak as the one we have now, and a lot harder to fix.
Mr. Norton and CDOT have chosen the path of least expense, for the moment. Perhaps that seems prudent. In reality it is not. We could all save money by not buying insurance, saving for college or retirement or other things that we know might be coming. Trying to solve the worsening situation of I-70 by spreading more asphalt is just as short sighted.
What will adding additional lanes to the highway do? First, it will take about 15 years. It’s not just lanes we’re talking about, but a new tunnel at Dowd Junction and additional width bored in existing tunnels. It means condemnation of another wide swath through Idaho Springs. It means whatever lawsuits and other delays this decision might spawn. It also means that CDOT is completely ignoring any cost overruns that are sure to occur.
Oh, and absolutely no growth can be allowed along the Front Range. More people means more traffic into the mountains. Even with the new lanes there will be many more people driving into the mountains. The congestion will be just as bad as it is now or even worse.
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But in 2025 there will be no other option. Then we will get to spend another three or four years and another $20 million to reinvent the process we just went through. Maybe then we will spend the time and money for transportation that we should be spending now. Only it will cost a lot more, a hell of a lot more.
There are other considerations besides money that the “Add More Asphalt” solution ignores. The I-70 corridor already has a dramatic impact on wildlife, water and the land through which it travels. During the recent PEIS work the width of the highways “footprint” was identified as a major problem. Any solution that minimizes the area of the highway is a plus.
The Add More Asphalt solution was identified as one of the worst possible options as far as the mountain environment goes due to the massive increase of the “footprint.” The AGS (monorail) was one of the least damaging. With CDOT’s solution we will need to add more than just asphalt. Much more traction sand and mag chloride will be needed. The Eagle River, Gore Creek, Straight Creek, the Blue River and Clear Creek will all suffer heavily from this decision.
Mr. Norton pointed out that CDOT has Sediment Control Action Plans (SCAP) in place to deal with these environmental troubles that the highway causes. While the SCAPs are all well and good, they will only pick up 50 percent of the new sand that is put down each year. That’s in the best cases. This means that more than half of the thousands of tons of sand that are put down each
year will still move into the streams. By nearly doubling the surface area of the highway, CDOT will have to double the amount sand and mag chloride. So why are we even bothering with collection and cleanup of traction sand today? It seems only a token effort and the streams and forests along the highway will be dying just as fast, or faster, than they are now.
Opting for the cheapest alternative may have some immediate political benefits for Mr. Norton and save CDOT from having to actually be a transportation department. For the rest of us, for our children and the mountain environment, it will be by far the most costly.
After three years the Mountain Corridor Advisory Committee, made up mostly of people whose communities and homes will be directly impacted by any action on I-70, gave their advice and were ignored. After all, it’s not Tom Norton and CDOT’s future or homes we were talking about. It is ours.
Even after a well orchestrated “listening forum,” why should they start listening now? Yet maybe they will, if we make them.
The draft PEIS is due out early next year and will go through a public comment period, as well as other examination before the final PEIS is released in 2005. The people who live along the Mountain Corridor, as well as those on the Front Range who use it, need to make their voices heard. Congressman Udall has already asked CDOT to reconsider and we should, too. It would be a shame to waste a couple of billion dollars and 20 years before we decide to take the transportation problems along the I-70 corridor seriously. Maybe we still have time to get Mr. Norton and CDOT to pull their heads out of the sand and face forward, into the future.
This short note is to the person in Tipsline who wants to know who he or she has to sleep with to get a letter printed in the Vail Daily. Me. I have connections unknown to anybody that will get you in the door. Now, if you believe this, there is a bridge, many bridges.
Save our foot path
The many people who use the ski bridge to walk into Lionshead will be pleased to know that the bridge will be replaced by a new one that has a separate foot path.
Unfortunately, if you approach from the west side of the ski run you will learn that there is no longer a foot path to take you to the bridge. The property next to the ski run where there have been tennis courts is to be divided and sold to four parties who will build houses on the lots. The zoning will be primary secondary, which means two houses will go on each lot.
Why will there no longer be a foot path? Because it is thought that the rich people buying the lots would not like to have people walking past their property. It is feared that leaving a foot path would reduce the value of the property. Of course they could put up a hedge to block the view if it truly was a problem.
With the redevelopment of Lionshead, the foot path was in line to receive a dramatic increase in use. There are far too few foot paths in Vail, as is, and the removal of this one is another example of greed prevailing.
It’s fear, that’s it
Yes, it is surprising the lack of responses regarding the replacement of High Noon lift and the more controversial new Sun Down Express.
What I have found when talking with locals who say the new lifts will ruin Sun Down Bowl was a reluctance to go on record. Many have families, and are economically tied to the ski company by direct employment, insurance, or a business relationship. Some worry that voicing an opinion opposing a corporate viewpoint might result in some form of backlash.
In light of the numerous layoffs that have affected many in this community during the last several years, a reluctance to question the “party line” is understandable and rational. I fear that the muffling of our voices, and the homogenizing of our mountains, are part of a disturbing trend that is the loss of that independent spirit of skiing.