Will large trucks still ply Meadow Drive?
VAIL — As Vail Valley Medical Center plans its future — a likely $100 million renovation program — Meadow Drive is drawing a lot of attention. Specifically, town and medical center officials are trying to find a way to get as much traffic as possible off the few blocks between Vail Road and the hospital.
The Vail Planning and Environmental Commission on Monday spent more than two hours wrestling with the ideas contained in a comprehensive plan for the medical center that address truck traffic in and out of the medical center. The plan as written moves virtually all patient traffic, as well as ambulance traffic, off West Meadow Drive to a new entrance on South Frontage Road. That plan will include a new roundabout to move traffic into and out of the medical center campus.
But trucks present a problem. The medical center doesn’t have a lot of frontage road access. That and the fact there’s a fairly steep drop between the frontage road and street level along Meadow Drive makes truck access difficult, planners say.
THE PROPOSED SOLUTION
The solution as presented is to direct trucks to a new, enclosed loading area just off Meadow Drive. Big trucks — which deliver things like bulk oxygen and new mattresses to the hospital (but not regularly) would be directed to the existing surface parking lot on the west side of the facility.
Mark Bunnell, a traffic consultant for the project, said “service vehicles” — everything from big trucks to small vans — average about 58 trips per day during peak times. (A van going to and from the hospital from Vail Road counts as two trips.)
While the number of deliveries doesn’t seem excessive, many of those deliveries come during mid-day hours. One Meadow Drive resident said sometimes those trucks create their own traffic problems.
Jim Lamont, who has lived along the street for many years, showed commission members several photos of trucks waiting to make deliveries with two delivery trucks parked on the walkway just outside the existing loading area. Lamont asked commission members to reconsider the idea to keep those large vehicles on Meadow Drive.
“The hospital really tries to manage this, but things happen,” Lamont said. “There’s so many different things going on. … I won’t fault the hospital — they’ve got security people who monitor traffic. But it’s truck anarchy some days.”
HIGH TRAFFIC AREA
One of those things is the fact that Meadow Drive between Vail Village and Lionshead Village is increasingly used by cyclists and skateboarders wheeling off Vail Mountain or between the resort areas. Those people, along with pedestrians and buses, create a potentially hazardous situation, he said.
“We’re becoming so much of a resort that people are oblivious to the fact that we need to conduct business along that street.”
Fellow Meadow Drive resident Merv Lapin added that because of redevelopment in Lionshead, traffic along Meadow Drive has become “exponentially larger” than it was just a few years ago.
FLOATING OTHER IDEAS
Commission members also asked to see other ways of possibly taking truck traffic off Meadow Drive. Acknowledging the extra costs, commission member Michael Kurz asked if the medical center could have all its deliveries come to a central warehouse elsewhere, then use smaller vehicles to bring goods to the hospital as needed.
“There’s no space in small neighborhoods for any of this,” Kurz said.
Commission member Luke Cartin suggested the plan include ways to make sidewalk parking for waiting trucks “inconvenient,” and commission chairman Henry Pratt wondered if the loading area itself could possibly be big enough. While applauding medical center planners for finding ways to get the vast majority of vehicles off Meadow Drive, Pratt suggested finding a way on the north side to create a courtyard for waiting trucks.
Loading and delivery is just one thorny question the town’s planning commission will wrestle with over the next several weeks. The commission will finish up its look at truck traffic at its Oct. 13 meeting, then continue its review.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com or @scottnmiller.