Vail traffic camera project meets the road | VailDaily.com
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Vail traffic camera project meets the road

Geraldine Haldner

Or at least informative.

Given Colorado’s tendency to sudden weather changes, a sunny Sunday in Vail may translate into white-out conditions at Eisenhower Tunnel or the other way around.

Instead of guessing traffic volumes and road conditions on Interstate 70, or drawing conclusions from a recorded hotline by the Colorado State Patrol, Vail residents and visitors can now see I-70 for themselves all the time, day in and out.

From Vail Pass to Idaho Springs and from Vail to Glenwood Canyon, 11 cameras are now keeping track of traction, sleet, blizzards, accidents and the resulting traffic jams.

Vail’s own weather channel went on the air Feb. 4 with very little fanfare, but considering how many nightmare commutes it may avert, the service could soon be everyone’s favorite.

“I do check the weather channel when I’m driving to Vail,” says Paul Kuzniar, a consultant and part-time Vail resident who drives the 1,000 miles from Santa Monica, Calif. to Vail at least four times a year.

“But it tends to be a little macro. It isn’t telling me exactly what is going on at 8,150 feet in Vail.”

Given that he and his wife Barbara, just recently became the proud grandparents of their first grandchild, who resides in Greeley. Front Range trips will likely add several hundred more miles to the odometer this year.

“Coming from California, I’m starting out at sea level. From there I’m climbing all the way, which greatly increases the potential for really treacherous drives,” says Kuzniar, who two winters ago got snowed-in in Utah on his way to Vail.

“The snow just hit, there was little warning,” he recalls.

Before returning to Santa Monica, Kuzniar says, he would definitely tune in Channel 19.

And on his next trip to Vail in April, he hopes the feed will be available via the town’s Web site.

“I have my laptop with me. That would be really convenient,” he says.

Modeled after the one-year-old example of Breckenridge, Vail’s “Eye on I-70” shows a rapid succession of live footage on a split screen from four cameras at a time.

If there is a white-out on Vail Pass, that’s what the camera shows – nothing but white. If the road is dry, occasional cars speed by. If there is an accident at night, headlights come to a stand-still.

And while a picture may be worth 1,000 words, there is up-to-the-minute road condition text alerts from CDOT scrolling by at the bottom of the screen.

Spearheaded by departing Vail Town Manager Bob McLaurin, the I-70 camera project is a joint venture between the town of Vail, the Colorado Department of Transportation, Vail Resorts and Alpine Vista Productions.

CDOT allows Vail to access the footage from existing cameras via the Internet, and has contributed two-thirds of the $155,000 cost to install three more cameras and set up the system. The town and Vail Resorts picked up the remaining $50,000.Vail Resorts also sponsored part of Breckenridge’s project, which has allowed visitors and locals to check traffic volumes and road conditions since last winter.

“This collaboration provides a valuable public service that appeals to the information needs of visitors and locals alike and we’re proud to be able to showcase it as part of our local government programming,” McLaurin said.

Alpine Vista Productions, which pioneered the Breckenridge system, will manage the Vail’s system. Monthly operational expenses and future upgrades will be funded through local sponsorships, which can be purchased for display advertising to the side of the road footage.

Channel 19 reaches about 7,000 cable subscribers in Vail, including hotels, bars and restaurants.

In addition to making commutes easier, the service is also designed to enhance the local economy on days when cars are backed up toward the Front Range and ski guests postpone their trip home for dinner or some shopping.

Alpine Vista Productions and the town are still working out remaining details, but the goal to provide the footage to lodges without cable service and on the town’s web site, http://www.vailgov.com.

Town of Vail Public Information Officer Suzanne Silverthorn also says that several other communities to the east have expressed an interest in being hooked into the system.

For more information about the system, including sponsorships, contact Michael Orlowski from Alpine Vista Productions at (970) 453-4046.

Geraldine Haldner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at ghaldner@vaildaily.com


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