Railroad idea would block access to Avon school | VailDaily.com

Railroad idea would block access to Avon school

Shane Macomber/Vail DailyUnion Pacific has requested to close the section of West Beaver Creek Boulevard where the railroad tracks cross.

AVON – Beating the morning bell at Avon Elementary School may get a little harder.Union Pacific Railroad is asking the state’s Public Utilities Commission to close the portion of West Beaver Creek Boulevard that crosses the railroad. Currently, anyone traveling on U.S. Highway 6 can turn onto the boulevard, cross the railroad, and get to Avon Elementary School. But if the commission grants the request, it would mean anyone driving to the school will have to head through the middle of Avon to connect with West Beaver Creek Boulevard. “That would make my commute about five minutes longer,” said Deborah Savino, an Avon Elementary School teacher. Avon officials aren’t happy about it either. The town was given permanent permission to extend West Beaver Creek Boulevard over the railroad in 1998, said Town Manager Larry Brooks.

Many of Avon Elementary’s students come from neighborhoods just south from the school. That connection has made it easier for parents to get their kids to school and for teachers to get to work, he said. The town wasn’t given a reason for the railroad company’s change of heart. But Mark Davis, spokesman for the railroad company, said Union Pacific made the request after Avon asked for permission to build two more roads over the tracks. Avon wants to use those roads to connect the town with the Westin Luxury Hotel and Spa, which is being planned for a 19-acre property called the “confluence” on the north bank of the Eagle River. Union Pacific, on the other hand, wants to keep its options open.It’s been years since the railroad company used the stretch of railroad through Avon. But railroad company officials refuse to abandon the track, noting they may want to run trains through there again someday. If that ever happens, the railroad company doesn’t want three road crossings over the tracks so close together, Davis said. Union Pacific needs to study which crossing would be the best one and to do that, access over West Beaver Creek Boulevard needs to be closed in the meantime, Davis said.

“It’s a procedural matter,” he said. Closing access, temporarily or permanently, would be inconvenient, said Dana Harrison, another Avon Elementary School teacher. “Kids use it, teachers use it, parents use it,” she said. Employees of the nearby Eagle River Water and Sanitation District go over the railroad tracks there quite a bit, too, Brooks said. It will take several months and a public hearing before the commission will decide, Brooks said. In the meantime, Avon is gearing up for a fight, he said. Several towns in Eagle County have roads that cross over railroad tracks, too. The bridge that connects Highway 6 with the Miller Ranch neighborhood in Edwards crosses the railroad, for example.

“I don’t know how much anxiety other jurisdictions will have from this, but I would suggest they put it on their radar screen,” Brooks said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or tmiller@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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