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Plowing paths toward highway safety

Matt Zalaznick

Amid the onslaught of roadwork in Eagle-Vail, county and community leaders have begun designing paths that will run along U.S. Highway 6 between the Interstate 70 overpass and the Eagle-Vail Shop N’Hop.

The paths will make it safer for residents to walk through Eagle-Vail and on to the shops at the Village at Avon, Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone said Wednesday at a meeting of the Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District Board of Directors.

“I would feel we’ve achieved a real success if we can put this together,” Stone said. “This is something none of us envisioned.”

The paths and sidewalks, to cost $650,000, are the latest byproducts of the furor that erupted over the “half-diamond” interchange the Colorado Department of Transportation is building where I-70 passes over Highway 6 in Eagle-Vail.

Now that work has begun on the interchange, a batch of homeowners opposed to the half-diamond – along with other Eagle-Vail residents –have turned their energies toward making Highway 6 easier and safer to cross for bikers, joggers, strollers and pedestrians.

To ward of a lawsuit from the Eagle-Vail Metro District, CDOT last summer widened stretches of Highway 6 and painted new turning lanes. They also have agreed to install traffic lights at Stone Creek Drive and at the intersection of Highway 6 and the half-diamond’s westbound off-ramp. The off-ramp will meet Highway 6 between the I-70 overpass and the Eagle Vail Exchange building.

Both traffic lights will have crosswalks to make it easier for pedestrians to cross.

The current plan calls for a sidewalk from Eagle Road to the tunnel that golfer’s use to cross under Highway 6, Eagle County Engineer Helen Migchelbrink said.

A path will be paved from the tunnel down to the Nottingham Ranch Road bridge, where a new bridge and roundabout are being built by the developer of the VIllage at Avon, Traer Creek LLC, Migchelbrink said.

The bridge will have a sidewalk connecting to paths inside the sprawling Village at Avon, where The Home Depot will open a store next summer, with Wal-Mart following in the fall, she said.

The sidewalk will go around the roundabout to Shop H’Hop, she said.

“Essentially what we are looking at is providing pedestrians improvements from Shop N’Hop to the half-diamond,” Migchelbrink said.

Where possible, the path will be separated slightly from the cars rushing past on Highway 6.

“I think it’s great,” says J Halburnt, a member of the Eagle-Vail Metro Board. “It’s something away from the road.”

The $650,000 cost of the paths and sidewalks –which could be built next summer – is likely to be shared by CDOT, Eagle County, the Eagle-Vail Metro District and the Village at Avon, who are still hammering out a final plan that will likely split the cost this way: Traer Creek, $250,000; the Eagle-Vail Metro District, $175,000; CDOT, $150,000; and Eagle County $75,000, plus management and design costs.

The Village at Avon will pay the largest share because of the 50 percent traffic increase forecast on Highway 6, Stone said.

“We concluded half of the traffic on the road will be generated by the Village at Avon,” Stone said. “We’ll look to the Village at Avon to provide half of the funding, or $250,000.”

The deal could absolve the Village at Avon from making future improvements along Highway 6, such as installing roundabouts at Eagle Road and Stone Creek Drive, Stone said.

“Personally, I don’t know if a roundabout would ever be installed at Eagle Road, and Stone Creek Drive is another questionable roundabout,” Stone said. “It’s in the interest of all that we work to get the money now instead of some time in the future.”

County commissioners Mike Gallagher and Arn Menconi have agreed to the county’s share of the project’s cost, Stone said.

Aside from a $75,000 contribution, the county will manage the project and pay design costs, Stone said.

The paths should also connect the Riverside Court neighborhood –on the north side of Highway 6 –to the rest of Eagle-Vail, Metro District Board member Walter Allen said.

Residents of that neighborhood have complained it’s sometimes too treacherous to get to the community’s pool, golf course and tennis courts on the south side of Highway 6, Allen said.

“We’ve had a long-term problem integrating Riverside into our community,” Allen said. “This would tend to eliminate that problem by offering a safe crossing for these kids into our community.”

The Eagle-Vail Metro Board voted unanimously Wednesday to sign a letter of intent agreeing to the deal for the Highway 6 paths. Eagle County has signed the deal and is awaiting the approval of the Village at Avon.

“There’s a lot of money contributed by communities outside of Eagle-Vail to get it done,” Eagle-Vail Metro District board member Cindy Gilbert said. “I see it as a win-win situation.”

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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