Vail Valley Voices: I-70 takes fun from skiing
Vail, CO, Colorado
As we settle into 2012, Colorado as a community should take a moment and resolve to ensure skiing and snowboarding remain fun for generations to come.
We can do this and improve the state’s physical, environmental and economic health by tackling one of our biggest infrastructure problems and developing a comprehensive plan to fix congestion along the I-70 mountain corridor.
Currently, most skiers and snowboarders in Colorado face two obstacles: the unpleasantness of congested traffic along I-70, and a future of declining snowpack due to the effects of climate change.
Just as we’ve all made personal resolutions to exercise more or stop smoking, Colorado should resolve to undertake the one thing that will help improve its physical, environmental and economic health for the future by developing a mass transit system for the I-70 mountain corridor.
Coloradoans are hooked on the outdoors. We enjoy an abundance of skiing and snowboarding, which makes us one of the most physically fit states in the country.
These winter sports are also a key component in our economic health as they generate an estimated $2 billion per year in Colorado.
Yet with each passing year, skiing and snowboarding become less enjoyable as horrific traffic jams make reaching our states winter bounty excruciatingly painful.
Additionally, all those vehicles on the road only add to our state’s collective carbon emissions and contribute to climate change and its effect on our annual snowfall.
Sitting in unbearable traffic congestion has turned what normally could be a wonderful day in the mountains into a stressful experience. It will only continue to get worse as the Colorado Department of Transportation’s own projections show weekday and weekend traffic more than doubling by 2035.
Furthermore, a Denver Chamber of Commerce study recently predicted that delays along the corridor are estimated to cost $839 million each year.
Anyone who has been up to their favorite resort in last month has in all likelihood noticed the lack of snow. This is a problem being realized from coast to coast by skiers and snowboarders, and recently covered by a New York Times article as resorts across the country suffer from below average snowpack.
Instead of grasping at temporary and minor fixes, we should show the willpower to embrace a mass transit system that will relieve I-70 mountain traffic congestion.
CDOT’s own consensus recommendation for the I-70 corridor includes “a commitment to evaluation and implementation of an advanced guideway system.” In other words, some form of mass transit system.
A future of more traffic congestion and increased carbon emissions from thousands of vehicles traveling on I-70 doesn’t bode well for a future of fun days skiing and snowboarding in Colorado.
Additionally, any talk among dreamy-eyed politicians and developers to bring the Olympics to Colorado without addressing our biggest traffic hurdle is ridiculous. Imagine inviting the world to come to a Winter Olympics in Colorado only to have them sit in traffic on I-70.
If we are to ensure that Colorado remains an attractive place to work, live and vacation for future generations, we must resolve to make it easier to get to the mountains so our fun days of skiing and snowboarding aren’t overshadowed by dreadful traffic on I-70.
Roland Kuehn is the co-founder of snowforever.org, a nonprofit organization committed to preserving the enjoyment of skiing and snowboarding by combating climate change and threats to recreational access. He lives in Fort Collins, CO.
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