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Vail Valley Voices: Vail takes on transit, parking

Suzanne Silverthorn
Vail, CO Colorado

If results from the town of Vail community survey are any indication, the Town Council’s decision to address the top issue identified by survey respondents – parking – will be welcome news.

A strategic work plan recently adopted by the Town Council includes improvements to parking and transportation as part of an overall plan to address key issues identified within the community.

On June 1, the council will hear a recommended course of action on the various parking solutions previously presented as well as an overview of the community survey results in which parking was raised as a significant issue.



While opinions vary on a solution, most would agree Vail has a parking problem during busy times in the winter, as well as summer, when the supply is unable to accommodate demand.

The town’s parking management programs rely on use of South Frontage Road as an overflow option with a goal to limit use of the road to 15 times per year. The goal was created in 1993 and represents a calculation based on 10 percent of a 150-day ski season in the winter and three times in the summer.



In recent years, that 15-day goal has become increasingly challenging. For example, there were 49 overflow parking days on the frontage road during the 2007-08 season, a record year for the ad hoc parking. Between 2000 and 2010, Vail has averaged 30 days of overflow parking each winter – not an ideal situation for a guest looking for convenience.

Projections developed in 2005 by the town have shown the need for 400 additional public parking spaces in the near term and an additional 600 spaces by the year 2025.

These estimates are being updated by the Public Works-Transportation Department to account for Vail’s most recent and future growth. The update will be used as a reference point to help guide upcoming decisions on future parking options in town, which also would include use of $4.3 million previously pledged by Vail Resorts for the construction of new parking.



The Town Council action plan calls for discussion of a townwide strategy for public parking in June with initial implementation of the plan beginning in 2011.

Among the townwide strategies to be considered will be Vail’s future interest in use of the frontage roads. Specifically, the council has until Sept. 30 to inform the Colorado Department of Transportation of its decision to accept or reject ownership and maintenance for all or a portion of the frontage roads.

The decision date is tied to a lease agreement between the town and the state Department of Transportation that was used to add 300 permitted parking spaces on North Frontage Road during the winter season.

The town is evaluating several parking-expansion opportunities that would be available through an ownership scenario of the frontage roads. Examples include additional frontage-road parking at Ford Park, plus providing safer parking areas by adding walks, wider paved shoulders, lighting and designated crossing points as well as more permanent parking along additional portions of the frontage road.

Other parking-expansion opportunities exist as part of the Ever Vail development application, which includes 400 skier parking spaces within a 1,550-space parking garage proposed for West Lionshead by Vail Resorts Development Co.

The town is studying the economic impact of the development, including public parking demand. Parking will be discussed again by the Town Council on July 6.

Transportation improvements

Progress also is being made to improve the Vail transportation system. Ground-breaking will occur later this summer for transit improvements in Lionshead.

The project includes a pull-off on South Frontage Road for ECO regional buses along with restrooms and waiting area and improved skier drop-off.

A second phase will include a demo-rebuild of the Lionshead auxiliary building providing for existing uses, improved vertical circulation, new guest services and amenities. The estimated $12 million to $15 million project is being funded, in part, by a $5 million federal transportation grant as well as from incremental property tax revenue resulting from the Lionshead redevelopment.

On a regional scale, representatives from Eagle County, Vail and other area communities are preparing to address transportation issues in a comprehensive manner.

A transit action group has been formed to help identify future service and funding options. The ECO Transit system, which relies on sales tax and fare-box revenue, has been unable to keep up with growing demand due to reductions in its operational income caused by the economic downturn and other circumstances.

Public meetings of the transit action group began in April and are being facilitated by the Eagle County Economic Council. The goal is to develop a long-term strategy for ECO, including park-and-ride locations, by Dec. 31.

In addition to upcoming decisions related to parking and transportation, the Vail Town Council has created a near-term work plan for progress on four additional areas of emphasis: budget and capital management, economic development, affordable housing and environmental stewardship.

These topics will be the subject of upcoming Town Council meetings, which are held the first and third Tuesdays of the month. Work sessions are scheduled in the afternoon followed by an evening business meeting beginning at 6 p.m.

Agendas, memos and supporting documents are posted to the town’s website at http://www.vailgov.com in advance of the sessions. The meetings are recorded by Public Access TV5. Call 970-949-5657 for programming information, or visit http://www.public

access5.org to view the meetings online.

The Town Council’s work plan will be updated regularly on the town’s website. Also, you can follow the Town Council

on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/vailtown

council.

Suzanne Silverthorn is Vail’s community information officer.


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