Street cuts create new plan
This year won’t bring a respite from seasonal onslaught of backhoes in the village, but it could result in one that lasts several years once construction is completed, thanks to better planning, better plumbing and the possibility of having heated pavement in the Village core.Meetings are being held on a weekly basis between the town, water district and utility companies to coordinate projects requiring street excavation. Excavating streets, particularly in the tourist-intensive village core, hurts businesses and the less disruptive digging there is, the better.To ensure the minimum construction disruption occurs, the town and utility companies are working together on multiple projects. It’s part of a multi-faceted, multi-year, multi-million dollar infrastructure construction effort that should keep the core’s pavement from seeing another backhoe for at least a few years.”Any time you’re working in the village, things get tighter,” said Vail’s town manager Bob McLaurin. “You’ve got to plan it a lot more carefully.”In the past, the village has seen multiple construction and utility projects undertaken, sometimes out of sync with other just-completed projects.”We’re trying to minimize the disruption and lost business that happens,” said town of Vail’s Todd Oppenheimer who oversees capital projects.The town has been very attentive to the needs of businesses in the last couple of years. The town receives half its annual revenue $15 million- from sales tax generated by retail operations within its boundaries.The new phased plan, still being developed, is part necessity and part reinvention of Vail’s aging streetscapes in the village core. It could begin as early as this spring. The town wants to upgrade the downtown landscape and is carefully examining installing heated streets.The water district wants to replace some of the water mains in the core. The disitrct needs to coordinate its efforts with the town and its streetscape plan because if heated streets are built, digging them up will be extremely costly.Old stuffVail’s existing cast iron water and sewer pipes installed 40 years ago, some say poorly, are beginning to fail, and they need to be replaced with stronger, longer-lasting ductile iron pipes. The utility companies and the town are jointly planning projects to reduce the disruption to guests and merchants.”The lines are rotten,” said Linn Schorr, engineering supervisor for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District that oversees water services.Last year a water main on Hanson Ranch Road failed during the Christmas holiday, causing service interruptions in the village and flooding the parking garage of the Galatyn Lodge. Several other lines failed have occurred in the Vail area, forcing costly and hasty repairs.Schorr said the district spent $1.25 million last year replacing water lines in the Vail area, and an additional $400,000 replacing sewer lines.Sewer lines have proven more durable than the water lines, she said.Replacing the water lines just in and around the village is expected to cost as much as $4 million, Schorr said.The Town of Vail allows contractors to work on street projects in the spring and fall. Projects typically start the day Vail Mountain closes for the season and end by Memorial Day. Remaining work can be done in October and completed by the time the mountain reopens, usually in mid-November.Lots of planningCoordinating the projects goes beyond the town and water district and includes developers.When the water district replaces the water mains past the P3&J lot near the Christiana Lodge, it will realign them to fit the development plan for that site that Vail Resorts is creating, said Schorr. That plan is calling for building a parking garage beneath the street. The water district will do the work in advance rather than have the developer come back in a year or two and dig up the road to realign the main.Schorr saiod coordinating efforts also is cheaper because it allow the cost of the utility work to be shared with developer and water district.Having heated streets through the pedestrian areas in town should cause the pavement to last longer, Oppenheimer said because there won’t be heavy equipment scraping the snow away and wearing the surface.The expense of snow plowing and that of heating the streets is approximately the same, he said.A natural gas-fired boiler, located in the village parking structure will heat the streets. From an environmental standpoint, operating the gas heating system will create less pollutants than the diesel powered snowplows and dump trucks will create moving and hauling the snow, he said. When natural gas is burned its byproducts are water and carbon dioxide.As the plan stands today, lower Bridge Street from the Covered Bridge to Gore Creek Drive could be worked on this spring. Oppenheimer said the water district will replace the water mains and repave the street, leaving enough room for the town to install the heated paving system on top of that.The extent of the heated paving is still be determined, McLaurin said. It could cost $10 million, part of which could be funded by creation of a special improvements district, he said.Slow goingBut replacing old, brittle and corroding cast iron water pipes beneath city streets isn’t unique to Vail. It’s happening all over the country, Schorr said.Ductile iron pipes are coated, making them virtually corrosion-free. They’re also more elastic and will resist cracking. More important, the pipes will be properly bedded when they’re installed. Schorr said many of the original mains were laid on rocks and boulders that cause pipe failures when the earth shifts.Digging a trench through city streets is not as simple as it sounds. The potential for cutting an electrical or water line is always there.”It’s the slowest work you can imagine” said Schorr. “It’s partly because there are so many utility lines and they are difficult to locate. The roads are also narrow and we need to keep pedestrian access while we’re working.”Schorr said she estimates the waterline replacement of lower Bridge Street could take as long as six weeks and the crew may take a day to install a single section of pipe.Water lines will be replaced on Hanson Ranch Road, Bridge Street and along East and West Gore Creek Drives, she said.For the town, the planning provides a chance to take the tired streets of the 40 year-old town and make them more attractive to visitors.”The whole setting of the village is old,” said Oppenheimer. “We want to upgrade the aging infrastructure.”Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or email@example.com
The parcel where workforce housing is being proposed was listed for decades as belonging to the Colorado Department of Transportation.