Vail to tone down initial pedestrian safety plan in village areas
Town will explore smaller pilot program rather than roll out the ‘whole enchilada’
Last week, the Vail Town Council evaluated two initial concepts for pedestrian safety improvements in its highly trafficked pedestrian areas. With the estimates for the implementation of preliminary ideas ranging from $2 million to $7 million, the Town Council expressed a desire to go back to the drawing board and pare down the project.
The town currently has $1.95 million budgeted over the next three years for the design and installation of safety measures and barricades throughout Vail and Lionshead villages as well as other busy areas near Dobson Ice Arena and Ford Park. In January, the council approved a $282,585 contract to retain engineering consultant firm Kimley-Horn to kickstart the project’s design process.
At its Tuesday, Feb. 21 meeting, the Town Council reviewed two initial concepts from Kimley-Horn, providing feedback on the future direction of the project as well as clarifying what it hopes to achieve with the project.
The first concept, or “safe access control” option, was estimated to cost between $2 million and $3 million. This program would allow the town to control its existing access points, and allow authorized access via a controlled access checkpoint or at other locations with limited access proximity cards (for buses, maintenance, emergency and loading and delivery vehicles, etc.).
This would be achieved by installing safety measures and a variety of bollards at just under 20 locations in Vail Village, Lionshead Village, Dobson and Ford Park. This program, Tom Kassmel, the town’s engineer, said, would “help 99% of the time for most law-abiding citizens, and will not allow vehicles in unless we want them in.”
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The second concept, or the “safe and secure access control” option, was a more robust concept, estimated to cost between $5 million and $7 million. This program would provide the benefits of the first concept with additional security measures to mitigate more serious threats, including intentional or terroristic vehicle attacks. In the same areas in Vail, this would be achieved through a greater variety of safety barricades in more locations.
“It comes down to how safe, how secure? Where do we want to take this program? What was envisioned by the council with wanting to control access?” Kassmel posed to the council.
‘Less is more’
At the meeting, Town Council members expressed that the full implementation of the safe and secure program was not necessarily needed. Rather, the council members expressed a desire for a more “minimalist approach” over tackling the “whole enchilada” as Mayor Kim Langmaid put it.
“I really never envisioned them (the bollards) being there for terrorist reasons and things like that,” said Council member Jen Mason. “It was truly just to keep the general people that Google Maps is telling them to drive to Vendettas, over the Covered Bridge. You see it daily in the village and it’s a bad experience for the guest.”
However, several council members also expressed that even the safe access control program might be too much. Council member Travis Coggin — alongside others — advocated for a “less is more” approach.
“I’m not in love with it, even at the lowest level,” Coggin said, adding that the program should be more of a “traffic deterrent,” finding a way to push vehicles toward Checkpoint Charlie.
The council did discuss the potential of a pilot program at Checkpoint Charlie, with the installation of some retractable bollards. Kassmel estimated that just this could cost roughly between $300,000 and $500,000 and take between four and six weeks to install. With Checkpoint Charlie as a pilot, Coggin added that there’s “value in having it there long term if we realize that this doesn’t work.”
“Before I start biting off Meadow Drive, I want to make sure it works in the weather,” he said.
The two community members that spoke at the meeting also shared this desire for a minimalized approach. Resident Dick Cleveland said that both concepts would take the town “down the wrong road,” creating more problems rather than solving them.
“This is overkill. My recommendation to you guys is: put a stop to it today (and) find another alternative,” Cleveland said. “This is a huge amount of money, there are better, more simple solutions. Simple is better and is probably more likely to work.”
Regardless, the council members agreed that something should be done. Council member Pete Siebert, expressing that this was an issue only likely to “compound over time,” said, “I don’t think we can just leave it as it is.”
Looking ahead, the town still has a significant amount of research and public outreach to do before rolling out any improvements.
“I’d love to gather information from both sides,” said Council member Barry Davis. “I want to support staff gathering their best ideas as well as collecting from our community what might be the best fit for Vail.”
Ultimately, town staff was given direction to do more research — including gathering data on the nature of the pedestrian-vehicle challenges in the villages as well as hardware options — and refine what a potential pilot program could look like.
But as Langmaid said: “This is not something we want to fast track.”