Our View: Don’t panic about the most recent I-70 survey | VailDaily.com

Our View: Don’t panic about the most recent I-70 survey

This newspaper last week picked up a story from our colleagues at the Summit Daily News about an Interstate 70 user survey. The news seemed dire: People seem to be coming to mountain communities along I-70 less often.

The survey was conducted by RRC Associates for the I-70 Coalition, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving conditions on the interstate. More than 450 people who park at park-and-ride lots near Morrison were interviewed, and their responses do seem sobering: Roughly two-thirds of respondents said traffic congestion has affected how often they travel to the mountains.

That’s not good news and will reinforce those calling for the state and its recreation industry to do something about I-70 congestion. And that’s where the real problems would arise.

The fact is that I-70 congestion is almost entirely a weekend problem. Any realistic solution, from highway widening to building a technically feasible but wildly unaffordable rail line, would be likely to create more problems than solutions.

Even if the billions needed for any kind of real solution could be somehow pried out of either state coffers or users’ pockets, do we really want a 24/7/365 solution to what’s roughly a 100-day problem?

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The prospect of a roughly 60-minute train trip between Edwards and downtown Denver would almost certainly put more pressure on home inventories and prices. An even quicker trip between Frisco and Denver would add more pressure on that area’s housing inventory and prices.

Increased land costs would also further hamper efforts to create workforce housing for locals.

That’s just one possible downside to easier access to the mountains.

And with the full understanding that the economies of mountain resorts depend on visitors, do we really want to open up our communities to the potential of thousands more guests?

Visitors are always welcome, of course, but what does easier access do to the character of our communities?

Weekend traffic on I-70 can stink much of the time — and is actually heavier in the summer — and with the state’s continued population growth, that isn’t going to change. But the reality is that people still come. Incremental changes — from toll lanes to tire laws to continued work to keep the interstate open during snowstorms — can help, without endangering the reasons people come to the mountains in the first place.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd, Special Projects Director Edward Stoner, Business Editor Scott Miller and Ad Director Holli Snyder.

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