Vail greenlights $18M bus hub
VAIL, Colorado ” Saying they couldn’t pass up the opportunity, Vail Town Council members picked an $18 million plan for a bus station Tuesday.
“We need to think more on transit, mass transit ” not building more parking spaces,” said Farrow Hitt, a councilman.
The choice came despite pleas from neighbors and Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz to do something else.
“Please don’t do this to our family and our guests. Please don’t,” said Rita Evans, a Fort Worth, Texas, resident who owns a second home at the Landmark Condominiums, which would be directly adjacent to the bus station.
Neighbors said the station would create fumes, noise, light pollution and litter.
The bus station would go on the ground level of an affordable housing complex that Vail Resorts is building at the North Day Lot, a parking lot in Lionshead. While the ski company is paying for the 120-plus beds of affordable housing, the town is footing the bill for the transit center.
Buses in Lionshead now use two small, streetside bus stops.
The council had an option to ask for only “skier dropoff” at the complex, near the base of the gondola at Vail Mountain. That would have cost the town nothing. Another option, which included “skier dropoff” and room for shuttle buses, would have cost about $7 million.
But citing expected growth, the council opted to build a station that would have room for town buses, county buses, hotel shuttles and skier drop-off.
The town is counting on $5 million in federal grants, $1 million in state grants and $3 million from Eagle County. Most of that hasn’t been secured yet.
The majority of the $18 million would come from tax increment financing funding. A TIF district in Lionshead allows taxes generated from redevelopment ” such as the Arrabelle at Vail Square ” to be used for public improvements in the district.
Vail already faces a $25.8 million shortfall over the next five years in its “capital projects” fund. That shortfall included a $7 million Lionshead bus station.
Katz, the Broomfield-based chief executive of Vail Resorts, said the town was spending its money unwisely. It will be an expensive project, and the town has limited resources, he said.
“The town should use these funds for other priorities,” he said.
Katz said the town should build the transit center at Ever Vail, the $1 billion ski village planned for West Lionshead. Town officials say that’s too far from the center of Lionshead.
Council members chose to go against Katz’s advice.
Margaret Rogers, a councilwoman, who called the choice “one of the most important decisions the town is going to make for a long time,” said it would be fiscally irresponsible to turn down the $5 million in federal grants that are available to the town.
She told the neighbors that the bus station would be enclosed, and there wouldn’t be buses right outside their windows.
Council members Dick Cleveland and Kevin Foley chose less-expensive options, but were outnumbered. Cleveland said the $18 million price tag could balloon to well over $20 million.
The completion of Vail Resorts’ affordable housing, which is required because of the Arrabelle project, will likely be pushed back to 2012, about five years after the Arrabelle’s opening.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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