Will Vail get flashing pedestrian signs?
Lights? In Vail?
While acknowledging that pedestrian safety needs to be improved in town, Vail officials are leery of anything that might look like a stoplight.
The Vail Town Council is likely to hear public comments about proposed improvements at its July 5 meeting.
VAIL — If you’ve walked from a bus stop to a car parked along a frontage road after a midwinter ski day, you know that cars and pedestrians can come awfully close to each other. Town officials may approve funding for some fixes as soon as next month.
The Vail Town Council heard Tuesday from town project manager Greg Hall, who laid out ideas for several years’ worth of improvements.
The first phase of that work, which is estimated to cost $410,000, includes:
• Crosswalk signs and lighting at the crosswalk between town hall and the Four Seasons hotel.
• West Lionshead Circle crosswalk signs and lighting.
• Crosswalk signs at the main and west Vail roundabouts.
• Crosswalk signs and pavement marking outside the West Vail Mall.
That work is part of what Hall called a “pretty large” list, a list that carries a significant price tag. But, Hall said, the frontage roads and roundabouts need the first work.
“We’ve paved and widened (frontage road) shoulders, but people still feel vulnerable,” Hall said.
ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN
Council member Greg Moffet agreed, adding that, particularly in midwinter at dusk, the frontage roads and roundabouts are an accident waiting to happen.
Besides the crosswalk in front of town hall, there’s a crosswalk just to the west of Lionshead Village, where Vail Resorts employees and equipment cross the frontage road from the resort company’s mechanical shops.
That crosswalk is shown by a radar-operated sign showing motorists’ speed in the 25 mph zone. But, Hall said, more can be done, such as improved lighting.
Better signs and lighting could also be used at the Blue Cow chute, that takes motorists off South Frontage Road onto Vail Valley Drive.
While there aren’t many sidewalks along the frontage road, Hall noted that the pedestrian crossings at the roundabouts are all elevated by a foot or so, to put at least a bit of separation between people and vehicles. The town’s newest roundabouts will be built at the site of the new underpass beneath Interstate 70.
OPPOSITION TO LIGHTS
At crosswalks, the idea for those well-used areas is to install flashing, user-operated signs indicating that pedestrians are present. Those signs are in place now in Avon along Avon Road at the roundabouts between I-70 and the entrance to Beaver Creek.
Council member Dick Cleveland said he’d like to make those well-used pedestrian areas safer but is worried about the proliferation of signs in town. And, he added, putting flashing lights on roadways will be a controversial issue for some residents.
That sensitivity to traffic lights — which is the reason Vail has roundabouts, not stoplights, at its interstate interchanges — is why the flashing signs will be activated by pedestrians using the crosswalks.
Given long-standing opposition to lights, Cleveland asked for a public-input session about the plans before the council approves money to pay for the improvements. That public comment could come as soon as the council’s July 5 meeting.
Besides signs and lighting, council members talked about other ways to boost safety on the frontage roads. There was some talk about allowing the town to alter speed limits on the roads when people are parking on the shoulders.
Hall said that could be somewhat complicated, since the Colorado Department of Transportation has jurisdiction along the roads.
Then there’s the idea of requiring people to get off their phones when in those high-traffic pedestrian areas. That requirement might not be just for cars, either.
Cleveland said on a recent trip to downtown Denver, he nearly hit a pedestrian who, with his face buried in his phone, stepped into a crosswalk against a red light.
If the council approves funding for the first phase of improvements in July, Hall said most of the work can be complete by the fall of this year.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.
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