This was a guest column in the Vail Daily.
Perception vs Reality. As humans our perception IS our (chosen) reality, until we allow logic to regulate emotion. Let me be clear, I don’t like being held up in traffic (although living in the Rockies is so different from commuting into London 30 years ago!) When I can’t park in front of my destination business, I accept it, hopefully with good grace! However …
”Traffic will destroy our town!” When I hear this apocalyptic message in letters to the editor and from objectors at Town Board and P&Z hearings in Eagle, I wonder. Will growth in traffic and less-than-convenient parking patterns really ruin our beloved town and its wonderful lifestyle?
Let me provide some context, logic and, I hope, a more realistic and promising prediction. Looking to the future, we’re in pretty good shape:
• Eby Creek roundabouts were designed to accommodate 3 times the current traffic.
• Sylvan Lake Road was designed to accommodate the full build out of Haymeadow and Frost Creek.
• Haymeadow will be required to build the Brush Creek Road extension when they start their 4th phase of development. They just started Phase 1.
• The town plans a Hwy 6 Corridor Study which will assess traffic, future road configuration and anticipated zoning/development from Eby Creek to Gypsum.
What causes rush-hour traffic? Commuting is a big factor. We tend to think of Eagle as a bedroom community with most folks commuting up-valley for work, causing hold-ups at peak traffic times. However, the U.S. Census Bureau statistics say otherwise. The diagram below identifies three groups of people: those who work in Eagle, but live elsewhere; those who live in Eagle, but work elsewhere; those who live and work in Eagle. Today’s numbers shouldn’t be very different from 2015.
Surprisingly, almost twice as many people commute into Eagle to work as leave Eagle for their jobs. A total of 4,465 people commute, whereas only 546 Eagle residents work here.
The Town of Eagle and the Eagle Chamber of Commerce share the same vision and goal: a future where people love to live and play in Eagle and (if they choose) can work here as well. In our ideal future, most of our residents will not need to commute. In fact, many will prefer to ride bikes or walk to work – a strong trend among millennials.
In that future, “rush hour traffic” may be less of a perceived problem than it is now.
What will get us to that glorious future? Healthy growth; Eagle becoming a Home Rule town will also help.
Healthy growth will provide critical mass. A population of 10,000 will support our town like never before, bringing and starting new businesses and providing jobs for locals.
Healthy growth provides attainable housing (including substantially more rental property) that attracts and sustains the younger generation who will generate that job growth.
Healthy growth will encourage us to put Local First: “keep your money where your home is”. Our dollars circulating here are an investment in local job creation and preserving a healthy, diverse and prosperous community. A critical mass population will spend more of their dollars here, supporting a vibrant economy.
I hope my friends who fear traffic and parking problems will take solace from our compelling vision and join us in supporting the healthy growth that promises a bright future for all.
President, Eagle Chamber of Commerce