So what are the roads like going home?
Following the lead set by their counterparts in Breckenridge, Vail officials are thinking about tapping into an existing network of cameras that can televise traffic and weather conditions along the Interstate 70 corridor.
To get the feed, however, the town of Vail has to come up $54,000 up front, followed by monthly payments of $3,400.
“I’m the idiot that drives back and forth almost every Sunday or Saturday, depending on the snow,” said Bob Boland, a 30-year-old ski-fanatic who loves Vail so much he frequently braves the 200-mile round trip back and forth to Denver. “I would absolutely check that out and say, “Let’s go for dinner and get home and go straight to bed instead of leaving and getting home late and still having to make dinner.”
Boland said he would certainly appreciate knowing what’s ahead on the road so he can make an informed decision.
“You can leave at 2 p.m. and get home at 6 p.m., or you can leave at 4:30 p.m. and still get home at 6,” he said. “You just never know, it’s painful. If there is an accident, you are just plain stuck. But most of the time there is nothing; it is just slow.”
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The Colorado Department of Transportation, or CDOT, operates four separate cameras at Silverthorne, the Eisenhower Tunnel, Georgetown and Idaho Springs. The department is offering live footage to local towns and counties.
Breckenridge instituted the system last January, and preliminary results were positive.
Breckenridge Town Manager Tim Gagen said one night last December, 300 vehicles were still parked in the town’s visitor parking lot after 6 p.m.
“We had about 17,000 or 18,000 skiers on the hill that day and at least 2,000 cars in the lot before the lifts stopped,” he said. “People here are using it before they go to Denver and that’s pretty neat.”
Shopkeepers, restaurant and bar owners quickly tuned, in too, Gagen said.
From a safety perspective, police say they like the traffic cameras because they keep fewer cars from clogging I-70 if there’s a pile-up.
It took Breckenridge three months, $28,000 and some technical know-how from Vail Resorts to get a direct feed from CDOT’s traffic cameras.
The the feed was linked through a T-1 line to a dedicated local cable channel. The channel features footage of I-70 traffic from Breckenridge to Empire in a 10-second continuous rotation.
In order to put the Vail Valley into the loop, Vail Town Manager Bob McLaurin said CDOT is looking at installing three more cameras to keep watch on Vail Pass – a notorious hot spot for slippery pavement and bad pile-ups.
McLaurin informed the Vail Town Council that putting the feed on local cable Channel 19 will cost approximately $54,000 for a T-1 line and additional hardware, plus an additional $3,400 a month. The cost could be covered by sponsorships, or by “basically selling ads on the scroll thing” next to the weather footage in the winter, McLaurin said.
Council members, McLaurin said, have agreed that the traffic cameras are an “important thing to do, because it is going to be a great service to guests and a great resource for locals.” They suggested the footage be put on screens near the parking garages.
Before paying the $54,000, however, council members told McLaurin to look for at least one funding partner.
“We already asked Avon; they aren’t interested,” McLaurin said. “Now we’ll go after the county.”
Eagle County Administrator Jack Ingstad said Wednesday the county might pitch in if the feed can be put the Internet.
“I think that’d be kind of neat” he said, adding that the county commissioners have “talked about having camera footage on the (county’s) Web site.”
McLaurin said he’ll tell the Vail Town Council in August if he’s found a partner, but he’d like a final decision made in early fall. That would give the town enough time to get the system up and running for the coming ski season, he said.
Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 602 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.