Vail Daily editorial: Spending, not fixing |

Vail Daily editorial: Spending, not fixing

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail, CO Colorado

Does moving the weekend skier gridlock a dozen miles west on weekends for $24 million make any real sense?

The Colorado Department of Transportation is studying the potential of using machinery to create a temporary extra lane headed home from the ski resorts on Sundays by using movable concrete barriers to create an extra eastbound lane along a 15-mile span between Georgetown and Floyd Hill.

Studies suggest there would be time savings for Front Rangers – albeit less than 30 minutes – balanced with delays for westbound traffic and the prospect of a few more accidents. But there’s no real balance – or efficiency – to be had here. The only thing that really would happen with zipper lanes is that the congestion would move a bit further up the mountain. It will make the commute between Idaho Springs and Denver a bit more bearable, but that’s likely to be about it.

This is an awful lot of time and expense for a few Sunday afternoons a year, while setting up potentially larger problems with single-lane traffic headed one way while the “zipper lane” is open.

Colorado can find better ways to spend $24 million than this, in other words.

The obvious smarter solution is widening I-70 through the “twin tunnels” between the base of Floyd Hill and Idaho Springs. Ultimately, the Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels need to be expanded, too, if the state truly is serious about easing congestion through the mountains.

While some highway widening would make life a little easier for people in the Denver metro area and people in Summit and Eagle counties, the work would come primarily at the expense of Clear Creek County, which has fought hard against more pavement along its now-vital corridor. But that’s the reality of the situation – whether there’s money for highway improvement or not, and right now, it looks like it’s going to be a long, long, time before there’s a realistic chance of finding money to improve I-70 through the mountains.

With that in mind, this ditzy zipper lane idea seems to us a case of someone saying, “We can’t spend the billions we need to, so let’s spend a few million to make it look like we’re doing something.”

The zipper is a dumb idea, frankly. Let’s move on.

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