Letters to the editor
Benefits of railWithout some imaginative vision of the future, we are trapped with the mistakes of our past. The vision should come from a sincere desire to improve our communities, not out of greed. It is in this context that I present ideas that to many seem like wishful thinking and idle dreams, but I would like to remind the doubters that Vail wasn’t much more than a dream in 1961 when I arrived in what was to become one of the great ski resorts in the world. Several amazing communities have evolved in the Eagle River valleys since then, but nothing can happen so quickly without mistakes being made.Just as we dreamed our way into this maze of struggle and wealth, I think we can correct our course and make Eagle County a far better and more equitable place to live in by applying imagination and a positive attitude toward real solutions to the problems we all know are here. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.Now, about rails.If you will allow me to gaze into a crystal ball for a moment I think I can offer perspective on our railroads that is currently lacking.First, the railroads had a great deal to do with settling the West. We had some of the finest railroads in the world a century ago. Over time, other forms of transportation have replaced the railroads in large part; cars, trucks, airplanes, etc. This process has been exacerbated by union demands and strikes. At one point the Populist Party put forth the idea of nationalizing the railroads as part of their political platform. Amtrak has gone through numerous machinations because of the subsidies that have been necessary to keep it in operation.Now I believe the railroads are about to go through a rebirth because of rapidly increasing fuel costs. It’s a whole lot more efficient to move goods and people by rail.The problem is the antiquated nature of our rail systems. While much of the rest of the western world has modernized their rail systems, we in America have stagnated.Let’s look at Switzerland, for example. They have an amazingly punctual, fast rail system that services the entire county. It’s a mountainous little nation with hash winters, but in spite of this the trains almost never run late. Four minutes is considered an intolerable delay in Switzerland.A few weeks ago I had a chance to talk with Hans Peter Fagagnini, the former CEO of Swiss Rail. I explained how Eagle County would like to have a light rail system from Denver to the Eagle County Airport to relieve congestion on I-70.The first question I asked was, How long are the Swiss railroad tunnels? Hans Peter explained that they have one tunnel that is 47 kilometers, or about 30 miles long. To put this in perspective a tunnel from Georgetown to Dillon would be about 25 miles long and a tunnel from Copper Mountain to East Vail would be around 15 miles long. These tunnels would eliminate the bad weather on the passes and substantial altitude gains.Cost related to traffic? The cost of the light rail system we need can never be justified on the basis of traffic between Denver and Vail, but a Denver Salt Lake or a Denver west coast route could be cost effective, and my guess is someday it will be built. A Colorado Winter Olympics with the alpine events in Vail could help promote this idea.Hans Peter said we should work with existing rail systems first. This raises the question of improving the Moffat Tunnel route to Salt Lake rather than building a new route that goes through the Vail Valley. So sometime in the future I think there will be competition to see where a new, fast (over 100 mph ) transcontinental railroad will go.Meanwhile I think we should be careful not to throw up too many (rail) road blocks in front of the Union Pacific. I think they will open up the railroad through Leadville and Minturn sooner that we might think just because of the number of coal trains going east. In our long-run building plans we should allow for the possibility of a two-track high-speed light rail system going through our valley. If there are nonstop Denver-Salt Lake City express runs where the train is traveling at in excess of 100 mph, we won’t want grade level crossings. My guess is over- or underpasses will be necessary.All of this depends on a change in attitude about the use of rail in this country, and changing the powers that be from thinking like dinosaurs to thinking like sleek race horses. Not an easy task. On the other hand as gas prices continue to rise a light rail system may become feasible, if not essential. If we want it in the Vail Valley we need to be thinking about it now.Roger BrownGypsumEditor’s note: The writer is a candidate for Eagle County commissioner.Military sacrificeI am literally flabbergasted that you, as editor of our local paper, would let Matt Zalaznick and Alex Miller write such an article as you published this past week re. the military in our country.How can any young man who has never been in the military or indeed around military personnel presume to write about whether or not military men and women are “heroes?” Certainly no one would argue that military service does not automatically make a person a hear. I feel confident that active duty, retired and anyone who served in any of the services would agree. But to slander the millions of men and women who have served in the armed forces by singling out three incidents – specifically My Lai in Vietnam, Abu Ghraib in Iraq and currently Hiditha in Iraq – shows an absolute lack of understanding and appreciation of wartime conditions and situations and the stress under which military personnel are placed in time of war.After investigation, I am comfortable with the action taken against those involved in the My Lai action; as for Abu Ghraib, as far as I can tell no one was tortured physically and only their dignity was put at risk – certainly I do not condone some childish acts by several young soldiers who were guards there. In the case of the recent Hiditha incident, so far all we have are allegations. Let’s wait for a thorough investigation.Why did the writers not mention the two captured American soldiers who were brutally tortured and were subsequently beheaded by our enemies? Can anything American have done equal this atrocity? I think not! We must stop and realized that we train the young military members to be killers in combat – it’s us or them! We have to realize that in the heat of battle, sometimes innocent people get hurt or killed. This is certainly not new with Iraq. But for the first time, we are fighting a war where the enemy does not wear uniform or helmets – they are men, women and, in many cases, children in local native dress. Can the writers stretch their imaginations far enough to picture walking through the dusty streets of an Iraq village, not knowing who is the enemy, where they are hiding, or if anyone shows their presence are they friend or foe? I think not. The simple act of a dog running into the street could set off a hellish flurry of gunfire.This is what we are asking our young soldiers to do every day. Added to this uncomfortable situation, we are trying to win their minds and hearts. I believe at this point we are asking too much of our military.I am reminded of Vietnam, where we fought the war with one hand tied behind our backs due to inept political leadership, and were never allowed to take the war to the enemy. I see the same situation emerging in Iraq. The doctrine we call “rules of engagement” limits our troops in almost every move they make. In my view, we will lose many more American soldiers before the war is over by trying so hard to minimize and prevent injuries to non-combatants.I digress, but I am incensed that the writers are men who have never served and have never awakened to the unquestionable fact that Muslim terrorists around the world want us dead. Their lack of knowledge about the military, their privileged lives and weak-minded spirits obviously make them incapable of realizing that their freedom to write such drivel is a direct result of the sacrifice of millions of Americans in uniform since the revolution in 1776. It is a direct slander on the integrity and honor of our armed forces.As a career military officer, I certainly do not consider myself a hero. Rather, I am proud of being a fighter pilot who served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars and helped to keep this great country free. As a military veteran, I want to remind Matt Zalaznick and Alex Miller and all others that being an American and being free is not a right – it is a privilege that has been won by soldiers, sailors and airmen in all of our nation’s conflicts. It is worth dying for, as many thousands have done.I suggest Matt and Alex take a trip to some Arab country – where they should try to write such an article and see the result. Get a grip on reality!Thomas H. Kirk, Jr.Colonel, USAF (retired)’Yes’ on CrossroadsThe board of directors of the Vail Valley Chamber & Tourism Bureau invited representatives from both sides of the Crossroads redevelopment plan debate to our monthly meeting June 21. Each presentation included an opportunity for members of our board to ask questions and engage in a meaningful dialogue regarding the specifics of each position. Following the presentations, the board debated the issue’s pros and cons and voted to endorse the measure that will appear on the ballot July 11 because of the plan’s overwhelming economic benefits to the community.Conservative projections call for a more than 750 percent increase in sales tax revenue to the Town of Vail through the proposed 55,000+ square feet of retail and restaurant space. The project additionally includes 69 condo units, each of which will have access to a front desk and other typical hotel amenities. There will be an incentive for homeowners to rent their units, which will help to ensure the units will be frequently occupied by overnight guests.The public facilities included in the proposal will also act as an economic engine for the surrounding business community. Amenities such as an outdoor ice skating rink, bowling alley and movie theaters will attract tourists and locals alike, providing additional reasons to stay and spend money in local businesses. The public plaza included in the development will also be an ideal venue for concerts and special events, driving more visitor traffic and spending to the community. Lastly, the project includes 338 parking spaces, which will help more shoppers and diners easily get into the heart of Vail.Based on the positive impact that the proposed Crossroads redevelopment plan will have on the residential and business quality of life in Vail, the board of directors of the VVCTB, encourage all residents in Vail to please be sure to vote “YES” on July 11.VVCTB Board of DirectorsBrian Nolan (Chairman) Beaver Creek Chophouse, Blue Moose, FoxnutIan Arthur, Vail ResortsStan Cope, Lodge TowerPeggy Curry, Colorado Mountain CollegeTom Donovan, Ritz Carlton Bachelor GulchJim Feldhaus, Colorado Mountain ExpressSteve Kaufmann, Tap RoomRob LeVine, Antlers at VailAmy Phillips, Vail/Beaver Creek MagazineTye Stockton, Sonnenalp Real Estate
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