Vail Daily columnist Linda Stamper Boyne: What’s this, traffic?
Vail, CO, Colorado
I remembered last week one of the reasons I live here. It’s a reason I rarely give thought to until it goes awry. I got caught in a traffic jam. I hardly knew how to react.
Sure, we accept slow-moving traffic in the winter. But even in the snowstorms, we can usually keep moving. This was a cars-lined-up, nasty traffic jam on a clear blue, gorgeous, late-summer morning. It didn’t compute. I couldn’t comprehend what was going on. Until I remembered. The roundabout construction.
Suddenly, I silently began cursing some poor soul sitting in an office who created the schedule for the construction of the roundabouts on either side of I-70 and the next intersection just beyond both of those. He had closed off roads and limited access to the Singletree neighborhood and Miller Ranch Road on the west end, so the morning traffic from two neighborhood was coming through one point. And then the five schools on Miller Ranch Road started. Throw in one day-care center and this was a disaster of gigantic proportions.
A five-minute excursion took me 20 minutes. 20 minutes! It normally takes me 20 minutes to drive from Edwards to Vail, not to drop a boy off at school! I don’t know how many cycles of the stoplight on Highway 6 I sat through in the turn lane. I lost count after three. And then the traffic barely rolled on Miller Ranch Road to my turnoff. The wait to make the turn back into the “flow” of traffic was beyond challenging. It only happened because of the kindness of strangers.
I’m not genetically predisposed for traffic. I come from a small town with as many stoplights as you can count on one hand, or maybe a digit or two on the second. And still, the way I learned to drive through town avoided almost every single one of them. My dad had a series of secondary streets he could take to get us almost everywhere without hitting a red light. Impressive feat.
Sure, sometimes we have to do the I-70 creep to Denver when we forget that you just don’t drive to Denver on Sunday afternoons or a storm comes through and accidents litter the freeway. But even then, the mindset is different.
We just don’t expect to run into traffic on our streets. It’s shocking, and confusing. To the credit of the drivers that particular morning, I didn’t hear a single horn honk. Anyone who’s lived here for very long knows that a honking horn sends terror into the hearts of the valley residents. We so rarely hear them that we immediately think someone’s hit a biker or a dog. Heads spin in the direction of the honk, startled and concerned.
It wouldn’t have gotten to me so much if I had known to allow extra time to get the boys to school and me to work. But I didn’t and I now fully appreciate my normally easy commute.
I appreciate that one of the things I like about living in the Vail Valley is the easy driving conditions. That our freeway commutes don’t involve white-knuckled, full-combat driving skills of the big city. That our rush hour consists of maybe missing the green light and having to sit through an extra cycle. That I might get caught behind someone at the Beaver Creek gate who doesn’t get waved through with a village parking sticker.
But I really hope this week someone has figured out something to ease the congestion. I realize funneling all the cars in the central part of the county onto one road can’t be easy. But perhaps a few people in florescent vests waving car across the railroad tracks or aiding the turning cars might help keep it moving.
I’m no traffic engineer, but surely something can be done. No? Well, maybe the boys will just start camping at school so they can get there on time in the morning.
If you don’t have to venture through that part of town between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m., consider yourself lucky. If you do, I have a series of CDs with soothing melodies and relaxation mantras I’m willing to loan you.
Linda Stamper Boyne of Edwards can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org