Vail Daily column: Sales tax a small price for Edwards’ future

Rick Mueller
Valley Voices

Edwards, the unincorporated village where some 7,500 valley residents live, work and play, has been looking at a 25-year planning horizon for quality of life and infrastructure improvements from now up to the year 2040. As part of the planning process, Edwards leaders, specifically the Edwards Metropolitan District, Edwards Community Authority, various homeowners association groups and businesses have been working on traffic and transportation issues with Eagle County and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The focus of late has been on the roads and bridges from Interstate 70 to, and inclusive of, U.S. Highway 6. The Edwards interchange roundabouts near I-70, completed a few years ago, were the first phase of a multiple phase project that will span the next 20 years.

Phase 2, which impacts the Access Road up to Highway 6 from I-70, is being led by the Department of Transportation. They are the primary funding source for future improvements. However, in order to “unlock” their funding (80 percent of the total project cost), Edwards and Eagle County must provide 10 percent of the project cost each, respectively.

The plan includes the widening of road bridges such as the bridge over the Eagle River and sidewalks or paths for both pedestrians and cyclists. Conceptually, the design includes adding additional traffic lanes and a roundabout or improved intersection at Highway 6 and the Access Road.

In addition to the improvements to the Access Road, improvements are needed on west Highway 6 including adding traffic lanes and sidewalks and enhancing the intersections at Lake Creek Road and Hill Crest Drive.

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Edwards Metropolitan District, which has not had a special election or vote in more than a decade, is proposing a sales tax initiative of 1 percent that then sunsets back to 0.5 percent when the construction costs of the improvements have been paid off. The initial 1 percent is necessary to fund an estimated $36 million road, traffic and pedestrian improvement that needs to be made in order to accommodate additional population and traffic growth.

Note that this is a sales tax — not a property tax — which means that those utilizing the assets and businesses of Edwards, not the property owners, will bear the minimally increased taxes. In my view, it is a small price for a visionary future.

Edwards has an opportunity to utilize Department of Transportation funding that would cover the costs of 80 percent of new road, trail and pedestrian infrastructure for anticipated growth in coming decades.

We as a community must fund 10 percent of the project in order to “unlock” Eagle County and Department of Transportation funding (10 percent and 80 percent, respectively). If Edwards fails to find funding, Department of Transportation will move its matching funds to another community’s project and it could be another 10 to 15 years before Edwards is considered again.

Taking advantage of Department of Transportation and Eagle County funding allows Edwards to enjoy traffic improvements that increase safety, livability, efficiency and make it a more desirable place to do business, all at just 10 percent of the total cost of the project.

To put it in perspective, once passed, the sales tax increase will only raise the price of a $20 lunch by 20 cents or the cost of a $2,000 bike by $20. Even at the new rate Edwards’ sales tax will remain among the lowest in the valley. Only Eagle-Vail’s is lower.

If the tax fails, there is no guarantee that we will have an opportunity like this again. The traffic problems in Edwards will increase as the population continues to grow and as infrastructure deteriorates in the years to come. The Edwards Access Road, Lake Creek Road and Hill Crest Drive intersections along Highway 6 are currently operating at an F standard, which means exasperating wait times and deterioration of both aesthetics and safety.

As a 22-year resident of Edwards and as someone who sees visionary communities who are forward thinking of relative to road and housing infrastructure, I genuinely support the passage of Ballot Issue A for Edwards.

Please vote “yes” on Ballot Issue A.

Rick Mueller is president of Remenov Development.

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