Vail Daily column: Air service solution needed
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association Newsletter. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. The electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
Outside competition to Vail and Eagle County’s recreational communities will be a major factor in shaping changes to recession-based local economic development policies. The success of Vail Resorts’ plans to transform Park City, Utah, into an interconnected mega-resort will be prescient.
The convenience and cost of both ground and air transportation will be a key factor. Vail and Eagle County cannot easily compete with ground transportation as the two-hour drive on Interstate 70 has become a major bottleneck. The Salt Lake airport is only a 40-minute easy drive to Park City by interstate, which is far less troublesome than on I-70 from Denver to Vail.
Destination guests are turned off by the hassle factor of getting from Denver International Airport to Vail on I-70. There are no quick fixes to the I-70 congestion. Traffic will likely worsen before it improves. Anecdotes drawn from a recent consumer survey of the Eagle County Regional Airport is a good indicator that Vail’s high-end destination visitors have expectations of more direct connections to major national/international hubs. Fulfilling these expectations will have a significant impact on the future success of Vail as an international destination resort.
Unfortunately, Vail’s air service is tied to economic subsidies for the airlines. So far that has been a “hat in hand” operation but now advocates are lobbying for tax-subsidized funding to provide seed capital to expand the air service at the Eagle airport. Whether a tax is approved and whether it is in the form of a business or property tax are fundamental issues that voters will decide in a ballot question, perhaps in 2016. One thing that does seem clear, the present funding system is not sustainable. But, before a proposed tax increase can realistically be put before voters, there will need to be some effective leadership to guide the issue.
The town of Vail Fire Department recently proposed a comprehensive program to spur its agenda to reduce the risks from a catastrophic wildfire. In making their recommendations, fire officials are understandably placing personal safety as their top priority. They recommend that procedures should be put in place that will cause some property owners to replace combustible landscaping, exterior building materials, i.e. shake shingles and the installation of mandatory fire suppression systems. These steps, while laudable for the long-term, could become one more of the many additional costs put upon property owners in recent years. These costs have a disproportionately high impact upon local residents and aging residential property owners on fixed incomes.
Voters need to know political candidates’ agendas and positions on the issues. Those seeking leadership positions on the Vail Town Council should be forthcoming in laying out their environmental and economic development agenda and proposals during the upcoming Town Council electioneering proceedings. The voters should ask the hard questions about these as well as other issues rather than accept generalities as given by candidates in past Town Council elections.