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More walkers, more riders, better Avon

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyA bus passes in front of the warming shelter Tuesday during the grand opening of Avon's new transit center.
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AVON ” The more people riding buses instead of driving cars, the better, says Avon Mayor Ron Wolfe.

That’s one reason why the recently completed transit hub in the center of town, called the Avon Station, is so important to the community, he said.

Avon Station is located on Benchmark Road, not too far away from where the old, much smaller transit hub was. It’s now the central stop in Avon for county buses, Avon buses and ski shuttle buses.

It’s also within a five-minute walk from almost every hotel in town, the planned Main Street running through downtown, Nottingham Park, the Eagle River, the Westin Riverfront and the soon-to-be-opened gondola to Beaver Creek Mountain.

Avon Station is one of the first major pieces of the town’s urban renewal to be completed. Before downtown Avon starts looking like downtown Denver, planners wanted to open the gates, so to speak, and make it easier for people to come and go.

Town leaders want to create a bustling core of shops, restaurants and housing that encourages people to walk and use public transportation.

“We know we’re going to inevitably grow, and if everyone has to drive, we’re going to choke on traffic,” Wolfe said.

Earlier this year, the roundabout at Benchmark Road, a sore spot with drivers for many years, was turned into a full roundabout instead of one you couldn’t go all the way around. By doing this, the east and west sides of town were better connected, planners said.

And now, with a more prominent and easier-to-use transportation station at the center of everything, people will be encouraged to use buses and walk, Wolfe said.

Avon Station was also built with future passenger trains in mind. The county envisions a rail system someday spanning the valley, and Wolfe said the town needed to be ready to jump on board.

While Avon Station certainly has its eye on the future, it solves more immediate problems for bus drivers and passengers.

The new transit center is much larger than the old one. It can hold up to six buses, which should solve some of the congestion during the morning rush. Having the extra space should make it easier for people to catch their buses, town leaders say.

It should also be easier on drivers, who at the old center were often stuck behind other buses picking up passengers.

Bus driver Jim Reiter said he really liked the new station. He said it looks nice, and after everyone gets used to the different layout, should work really well for everyone.

Avon Station also has a 450-square-foot shelter, which was built to resemble the lettuce sheds that used to be a part of Avon’s economy. Eventually, there will be a “Lettuce Shed Lane” running by Avon Station.

Earlier this year, the Avon Town Council created an urban renewal authority, which councilors have said is the best way to fund Avon’s ambitious downtown revitalization plan.

The urban renewal authority, which has same members as the Town Council, will have the power to implement a unique funding mechanism called tax increment financing, which can pump money into fixing “blighted” areas of town, fund public improvements and encourage redevelopment projects in the east and west town centers.

Before creating the authority, the council had to prove that there are enough unsavory parts of town to discourage development and investment. A “blight study” was commissioned to sniff out those deteriorated and disorganized parts of town.

The surveyors found enough potholes, cracked sidewalks, nonsensical parking lots and disorganized streets to consider Avon blighted and thus qualified for urban renewal.

The authority can then implement tax increment financing, a concept based on anticipated growth in property tax revenues. It allows the urban renewal authority to issue bonds to pay for necessary public improvements, and as redevelopment occurs, the increase in property taxes generated due to increased assessed values are used to pay off the bonds.

The money also can be used to reimburse developers for parts of projects and acquire property.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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