I-70 Coalition wants to curb rush hour traffic
EAGLE COUNTY – On a midweek drive from Denver to Vail, you can take in towering mountains and beautiful scenery. The same voyage on a Friday evening during ski season may take twice as long, and the bumper-to-bumper traffic in front of you will steal your attention away from the landscape.A group of mountain communities, acting as the Interstate 70 Mountain Transportation Corridor Coalition, wants to do something about the congestion. The Colorado Department of Transportation is considering a 20-year construction plan to deal with congestion along I-70, but the mountain coalition wants more immediate results.
To even the flow of traffic, the coalition is encouraging travelers to hit the road at different times of the day and different days of the week to avoid heavy traffic hours. Coalition vice-chair Stan Zemler, Vail’s town manager, said ski areas and businesses are already on board to offer incentives for skiers who avoid busy traffic times. Travelers who arrive before 7 a.m. or after 11 a.m. or show up midweek could be rewarded with a coupon for a lunch at a local restaurant or a latte at Starbucks. Discounted parking is also being considered. One of the coalition’s ideas is to cut down the amount of traffic by promoting carpooling and public transportation. Ride-sharing programs, such as skicarpool.com, allow skiers from around the nation to search for others in their area who are heading to a Colorado resort. Carpooling and public transportation are cheaper alternatives, allowing riders to share or avoid gas and parking costs.”We’ve put a strong focus on the transit alternative. One of our major goals is to make sure the solution we put in place includes transit as an option,” coalition director Flo Raitano said.
Because it is considering several recommendations, the coalition is seeking public input to help prioritize its goals. It wants to offer short-term solutions to traffic problems on I-70 that will be effective immediately while it waits for the state to finalize a long-term response, Raitano said.If people adjust their travel habits now, the coalition hopes those changes will carry through into the future, making the transportation department’s next move more effective, Zemler said. “There’s so much anticipation and eagerness to move forward,” Raitano said. “We’re not sure what CDOT will recommend, so there’s no target for us to shoot at.”However, the coalition is optimistic about the transportation department’s response to their recommendations. “I think they will address some of the important issues of the coalition and give us some room for hope,” said Bill Wallace, the coalition’s chairman and a Summit County commissioner.Success will come from the coalition’s respect for individual concerns and specific needs for each area, from Golden to Glenwood Springs, Zemler said. Already, the coalition has unified 35 communities (including counties, cities and towns) affected by I-70 traffic. In the future, the coalition may grow into a statewide initiative, he said.”We’ve held together through thick and thin and covered a huge geographic range,” Raitano said. “I think that’s a good indication that the coalition has legs and a productive future.”
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