Coalition of mountain communities takes issues with I-70 plans to commissioners |

Coalition of mountain communities takes issues with I-70 plans to commissioners

A coalition of communities along Interstate 70 that stand to be most affected by a 20-year highway improvement plan are going public with their concerns.The I-70 Mountain Transportation Corridor Coalition held a public meeting in front of the Garfield County Commissioners Monday. The coalition presented its issues with the Colorado Department of Transportation’s draft Environmental Impact Statement for improvements to I-70 between C-470 outside Denver to Glenwood Springs. Formed to prepare a locally acceptable preferred alternative to highway improvements, the coalition includes 30 counties and communities within the mountain corridor. It persuaded CDOT to extend its formal comment period to May 24 to allow the coalition to review the draft EIS and prepare its preferred alternative, which it will present at a public meeting in Granby on May 5 and 6.Among its concerns are what it sees as a lack of consideration for keeping traffic moving efficiently during the construction of the improvements. Among the improvements studied by the EIS are expanding to six lanes, adding high-occupancy vehicle lanes, and various forms of alternative transportation including bus in a guideway, a monorail and traditional rail.All of the alternatives the EIS studied include a third bore at Twin Tunnels near Idaho Springs and at the Eisenhower Tunnel.The coalition recommended evaluating traffic mobility for each of the alternatives in the EIS. It also suggested considering economic impacts of highway improvements for every community along the corridor, rather than the statement’s broad-brush approach.Since gathering and analyzing data for the statement has taken a couple of years, numbers such as population estimates have changed, and data is due for re-evaluation, the coalition said.The county commissioners had their own comments to throw into the mix. Larry McCown complained that alternatives involving mass transportation are aimed at the tourist industry rather than locals.Tom Jankovsky, general manager of Sunlight Mountain Resort, the closest ski area to Glenwood Springs, questioned the rail alternative that would stop at Eagle Airport.”That doesn’t help our tourist business in Glenwood Springs because it doesn’t get people here,” he said.McCown also questioned CDOT’s funding for the improvements. The environmental impact statement identifies a threshold of $4 billion as the highest amount CDOT could afford to pay for construction of a particular alternative.CDOT, in evaluating the preferred improvement plan, will look at the areas of greatest congestion and put most of its money there, McCown said.”The money will run out east of Vail,” he said. “We’ll be living with a four-lane system and still be facing gridlock at 2025.”McCown also bemoaned the 15-year construction period that will tie up traffic just as traffic was backed up for more than 10 years during construction of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon.”It’s going to be a 100-mile Glenwood Canyon,” he said.”Boy howdy,” Commissioner John Martin agreed.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext.

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