What do you like about I-70, Eagle County? | VailDaily.com

What do you like about I-70, Eagle County?

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Daily file photoIn an effort to make future Interstate 70 construction less of a hassle, officials say they will meet with residents before the work begins.

EAGLE ” Were you tired of waiting in construction traffic this summer? Are you worried about the impact of the interstate on Eagle County’s wildlife? Do you think the new bridge is a hideous color?

Those are concerns that Eagle County residents have a chance to voice at a Nov. 15 public meeting about future work on I-70. Those concerns will be used to guide the planning of future construction projects, officials said.

Edwards resident Tim O’Donnell said he doesn’t want to see a repeat of this summer’s construction in Dowd Junction. Future projects should be finished more quickly and more safely directed, he said.

“I drove it almost daily, and sometimes traffic just stopped. What’s their cost compared to everyone losing an hour a day?” O’Donnell said.

It was also dangerous because there were not sufficient signs or flaggers warning drivers of traffic, he said.

“There are dozens of skid marks from people who didn’t know that traffic was stopped,” he said.

Those are concerns a newly formed group of state transportation engineers, and county officials, business representatives and town leaders from up and down the I-70 corridor want to hear.

Their goal will be to find out what is important to the towns along the interstate, whether that be environmental concerns or preserving a town’s cultural and historical heritage, said Bill Scheuerman, department of transportation project manager.

The group is made of 26 representatives from Eagle, Summit and Clear Creek counties, transit authorities and resort companies. Together they will come up with a manual that will help future construction on the interstate be “context sensitive,” Scheuerman said.

“The normal planning process is, ‘How do we do this most quickly and efficiently?'” said Eagle County Commissioner Peter Runyon, one of the Eagle County representatives. “But this says, ‘What about the environment? What about the community?'”

While most upcoming I-70 projects will be done closer to the Front Range, that does not mean Eagle County residents should not be involved, said Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler, another group representative.

Construction toward Denver affects the valley, he said.

“Vail is a resort community. As people increasingly don’t want to navigate the mountain corridor or construction traffic to come up here, we should definitely be concerned,” Zemler said.

Eagle County may get some construction, including projects to add truck lanes on Vail Pass and improve the safety in Dowd Junction, transportation department engineer Peter Kozinski said.

Those projects could potentially hurt wildlife and cause noise, he said.

Another environmental concern is sand runoff from Vail Pass into the Gore Creek. Snow plows push the traction sand off the road, which builds up in the creek, Kozinski said.

One of the group’s top priorities is making sure the highway does not destroy the surrounding environment. Not using any more forest land than necessary, keeping endangered wildlife in mind and preserving rivers are all concerns, Scheuerman said.

The group wants to hear about how construction impacts residents’ day-to-day lives ” whether lanes are closed during the day or night, or if construction noise keeps you up at night.

While the group can’t guarantee traffic-free construction or all-night work, getting public input can definitely help make construction season go smoother, Kozinski said.

That might mean having open house sessions for the community before a project starts, or simply letting people know that construction planners have the rec trail or forest lands in mind.

“We hope to actively engage and get feedback from the public,” Scheuerman said. “These meetings are about finding key values ” what makes I-70 what it is and what is important to the communities along it as far as historic values, economic and environmental impacts.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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