Resident: ‘It will be better in the long run’
What: A new underpass linking Vail’s north and south frontage roads.
Where: About halfway between the Main Vail and West Vail interchanges.
Cost: About $30 million, with the town of Vail paying about $8 million of the total.
Completion date: November of 2017.
VAIL — Ross Cohen’s life is going to be affected by the Vail underpass project, but he’s looking forward to the day it’s complete.
Cohen and several other Vail residents Thursday showed up for an open house meeting about the $30 million project, which will link Vail’s North and South Frontage roads. The project will put two new bridges on Interstate 70, with an underpass beneath. The north side of the project is near the Simba Run and Savoy Villas condominiums. The south side is just east of Cascade Village.
When complete, town officials say traffic will be eased at the Main Vail and West Vail roundabouts and will make it easier to get from the resort villages to West Vail. Bus, fire, police and ambulance routes will also be more efficient.
Work on the underpass won’t begin in earnest until April of 2016, but the first steps of the project will start next month. That’s when the Colorado Department of Transportation will pave portions of the interstate median. That will allow officials to move all traffic to either the eastbound or westbound lanes as the new bridges are being built.
Matt Figgs, of the Colorado Department of Transportation, said the interstate configuration will be similar to the one used for this summer’s bridge project in Eagle-Vail.
Running two-way traffic on that stretch of interstate will allow Kraemer North America, the general contractor on the project, to build the two bridges over the underpass. Matt Hogan, of Kraemer, said he expects those bridges to be built in about three months.
As those bridges are being built — and for months after — work will start on the multiple retaining walls and two roundabouts needed to link the frontage roads. The project also includes extensive landscaping, including several trees to shield homes from headlight glare at night.
Figgs said the bridges will be “over built,” so some frontage road traffic can be routed above the rest of the construction, at least part of the time.
Both frontage roads will stay open during construction, but plans aren’t yet final as to how traffic will be routed through the construction area. The frontage roads will be open to two-way traffic during the 2016-17 ski season. Over the winter, other work will be done.
Residents looking at the various project displays said they think the project will be a good one, although no one is looking forward to the 17-month construction period.
“It will be better in the long run,” Cohen said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
In fact, the project has been on the state and town’s “this would be a good thing” list since the 1980s, when Cohen started coming to Vail. The problem, always, has been the cost. But the department of transportation in 2013 announced a plan to fund several projects around the state. Vail’s agreement to pick up about 30 percent of the total cost helped move the town to the top of the state’s list.
‘SERVE A PURPOSE’
John and Marilyn Eisenhard live at Simba Run. Both said they think the underpass will be a good thing.
“I think it’s a real positive,” John Eisenhard said. “I think once it’s done, (the area) will look nicer than it does now. It will be good for convenience — it’s a 15-minute walk to Lionshead for Oktoberfest. And it may help property values.”
Doe Browning is a candidate in this fall’s Vail Town Council election and a longtime resident. As she looked at the various displays, Browning also said the underpass will be a positive thing, although she said she expects to hear some grumbling during what’s going to be a long, involved construction period.
“It’s a well thought out project, and it’s going to serve a purpose,” Browning said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.