Vail Valley Voices: Let’s be smart about I-70 traffic congestion |

Vail Valley Voices: Let’s be smart about I-70 traffic congestion

Tom Edwards
Vail, CO, Colorado

As I was reading Don Rogers’ column Friday, I had to agree that Don has something here.

Back when the monorail was defeated, I wrote an article saying it was time to use our brain power instead of materials and horsepower to solve the I-70 traffic problems.

Don’s probably right. Usually the traffic problem is only for about four hours in the morning on the weekend and four to six hours in the afternoons on the weekend. This represents eight to 12 hours each way out of a 168-hour week or about 6 percent of the time in each direction. This corresponds with Don’s argument that 95 percent of the time there isn’t a problem. (And that’s assuming the traffic congestion happens every weekend, which it doesn’t.)

What are we trying to solve anyway? Are we trying to create a situation where there is unlimited access on weekends to the limited amenities in Eagle County? If so, what happens when we have more people trying to use a limited number of resources all at the same time?

As I said in my letter years ago, “If we make it possible for more people to use the resources of the High Country on the weekends and ignore the need to spread the usage throughout the week, we will be creating a weekend experience that neither we nor the visitors to Eagle County will enjoy.”

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Is it possible to look for solutions that allow everyone the opportunity to share in the glories of Eagle County but encourage that sharing to be spread over the week instead of concentrating them on the weekend?

Once again, as I said in my previous letter, “Could we create an Interstate 70 Traffic Distribution Management Program” that would allow us to figure ways to disperse the traffic and allow opportunities to travel that are more attractive than what we currently have on the weekends?

If we could encourage more usage of the three-day weekend, using Monday or Friday as travel days, then some of the traffic problem might be reduced. If we could make the weekdays more attractive with the lessened traffic, possibly reduced ski rates, reduced parking rates and fewer skiers on the mountain, we would we be creating something that might attract more skiers during the week and reduce the traffic on the weekends.

If we could eliminate truck traffic during those four hours up and six hours back on the weekend days, we would again have helped the congestion problem on I-70. If we could plan for a bus system (or maybe even a luxury bus system) from key points in Denver, including Denver International Airport, we could reduce the traffic on I-70. If we charged for peak times to travel I-70 and did not charge for lesser used times we could do the same kind of thing the airlines do with their red-eye specials that operate at non-peak times.

“The benefits derived from these potential solutions, besides relieving congestion, are the gasoline savings from not having to idle for hours in heavy traffic, the more even distribution of usage in the High Country by eliminating the high peak times currently experienced, the savings of materials and resources to create additional or alternate modes of travel and the use of our current greatest asset, computers and brain power instead of materials and horsepower.”

What works and what doesn’t? What are your ideas?

These are only some thoughts. Some of them won’t work, and some of them might.

You and the experts out there must have some other out-of-the-box ideas that would be even better solutions to the traffic problems of the I-70 corridor.

Let’s start thinking and see if we can come up with better solutions than the extremely expensive high-speed rail or the physical widening of Interstate 70. Just a portion of the funds necessary to create a rail system or widen the corridor would probably be far more than is necessary to create studies, do marketing and provide alternative solutions.

Let’s try to make an I-70 travel experience that works for Eagle County, works for the Front Range and works for our out of state and out of country visitors as well.

Creating construction projects that destroy the mountain corridor and negatively impact traffic for the next 20 years may not be the solution.

Tom Edwards lives in Gypsum, where he serves on the Gypsum Town Council.

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