Vail Mountain School traffic, parking lot improvements ‘bear fruit’ |

Vail Mountain School traffic, parking lot improvements ‘bear fruit’

Town and school see improvements to congestion following enhancements, changes

Vail Mountain School’s campus in East Vail. Improvements made to the school's parking lot have helped ease traffic congestion during this school year.
Scott Dressel-Martin/Courtesy Photo

Earlier this year, concerns over growing enrollment and subsequent traffic backup at Vail Mountain School prompted the school and town of Vail to revisit a 22-year-old conditional use permit and plan for solutions to ease traffic congestion at the school’s pick-up and drop-off times.

And, nearly a month into the school year, Vail Mountain School’s Head of School Steve Bileca reported to the Vail Town Council solutions implemented so far have begun to “bear fruit.”

“I’m very pleased to say that so far, of the 21 days of school, we have had 18 days without any backup whatsoever onto the frontage road, either east or west,” Bileca said during public comment at the Tuesday, Sept. 20, Town Council meeting. “Of the three days that we did have backup, two were our first two days of school while parents were getting used to the system and one saw backup for about a minute of about four cars, eastbound.”

Matt Gennett, the town’s community development director, confirmed that so far this year, “we have not heard any negative feedback from the community and have received positive comments regarding the improvements made on the Vail Mountain School property to date.”

The improvements made this summer, Bileca reported, included the construction of additional lanes within the school’s parking area “to allow for two different lanes to turn either east or west — where prior there had only been one option for cars to exit.”

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“We created an island, which allows for circulation, which is a little bit easier,” he added. “And we introduced toward the end of last year, a carpool application so that families could connect with other families and carpool in.”

The carpool application was launched in February 2022 and supported an effort to encourage parents and students to connect with one another and form carpools, walk pools and bike pools.

Part of the updates included the town’s Planning and Environmental Commission and Vail Mountain School revisiting a conditional use permit issued to the school in 2000. One of the six conditions in the permit was that should the school’s enrollment exceed 330 students, it would need to appear before the commission to revise the permit.

While the school has exceeded that number since 2007, it took until earlier this year in May for the matter to go before the commission. The commission approved the new use permit, which set a “new maximum enrollment of 450 students provided the installed and proposed traffic mitigation measures prove effective,” Gennett said.

The traffic mitigation measures were approved as a “two-step approach,” he added.

The first step included the internal circulation, on-site parking and two-lane exit improvements made earlier this year — as Bileca mentioned. Gennett confirmed that these have already “greatly improved the traffic congestion challenges they were experiencing previously.”

Going forward, the second step will include “turning lane improvements on the Frontage Road, which will commence next year if deemed necessary and appropriate after monitoring the results of the on-site improvements.”

So for now, the town and school will continue to monitor the progress and success of these improvements and look for future improvements as needed.

“We are going to continue with our efforts and we’re revising and reiterating as we see,” Bileca said. “I’m out there every morning and afternoon to ensure that I know just how it’s going and we can make any switches and changes that we might need.”

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