Steamboat Resort pitches new gondola between Meadows Lot, base area in transit center redesign
New high-speed gondola would essentially create a second transit center on the east side of the Meadows Parking Lot
Officials at Steamboat Resort have pitched the idea of a new high-speed gondola running from the Meadows Lot to the base area as part of an overhauled Gondola Transit Center.
The move would create what would essentially be another transit center in the Meadows Parking Lot and hopefully reduce congestion in the area already packed with city buses, private shuttles and vehicles dropping off skiers at the base.
Such a gondola has long been on the resort’s wishlist but has not always been a part of the redesign project. Gates Gooding, project manager for the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority, said the gondola concept resulted in the cancelation of more public town halls about the planning.
“According to the exercises we’ve gone through with our consultants, the addition of a gondola would significantly improve performance,” Gooding told Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday, March 21.
The Gondola Transit Center redesign team held a public workshop in February where the team presented each of the three redesign concepts currently being considered, both with and without a new gondola. Designs indicate a new gondola would lead to the the removal of the existing Wildhorse Gondola.
The first option — which Gooding said was the most popular among stakeholders — would make it so Mount Werner Circle is no longer a through street, creating two traffic loops on either side of a pedestrian walkway connecting the base area and the Steamboat Grand.
The second option would maintain Mount Werner Circle as a two-way street, but add a slip lane to separate transit and private vehicles. The third option, which was also seen as viable by stakeholders, would have Mount Werner Circle become a one-way street going north. Gooding said the latter option isn’t ideal though because it would disrupt Steamboat Springs Transit operations.
The design team then added the concept of a gondola to each of these options, resulting in six different potential plans. In each plan, the gondola starts where the existing Wildhorse Gondola is, but makes a jaunt northeast to have the base area station near where skiers and boarders currently wait for the Meadows Lot shuttle.
The design team had intended to have another stakeholder meeting this month, but Gooding said that was pushed off, as the gondola concept will likely significantly change the project.
“The recent design process has delivered significant value for both sides, investigating multiple options and engaging stakeholders in their evaluation,” Gooding said. “We now have a better design with reliable community support.”
Before the gondola concept was introduced, Gooding said the entire redesign project was expected to cost less than $10 million with the Mountain Urban Renewal Authority pitching in $2.75 million and the resort likely picking up the rest of the cost. With a new gondola now in play, Gooding said overall costs projections have significantly increased.
“The project scope and accompanying budget has been revised sharply upward, though we don’t yet have reliable numbers to say exactly how much,” Gooding said.
The uncertainty is partially because a new gondola may require road improvements elsewhere in the area, such as at entry points to the Meadows Lot, the intersection of Mount Werner Road and Pine Grove Road, and Mount Werner Road and Mount Werner Circle. Because of this, Gooding said road improvements planned for this year have also been pushed off to a later date.
“Staff has requested a detailed proposal from (resort owner Alterra Mountain Co.) that would outline proposed cost sharing (and) examine potential off-site improvements that may be required,” Gooding said.
Council members indicated they supported scheduling a presentation about that plan on May 16 and as many as two follow-up meetings later in the year.
“With all these moving parts, we are not in any hurry right now to come up with a solution, except for getting more user input,” Council member Michael Buccino said, adding that he feels like the gondola is “much needed.”
Council member Heather Sloop said she believes council needs to have a larger conversation about using property taxes diverted to the Urban Renewal Authority to support the project, as a new gondola isn’t necessarily what the Urban Renewal Authority was set up to build.
“I really would strongly ask that we dive back into what the initial intent of the URA was supposed to be,” Sloop said. “This was all about blight, and whether you like the word or not, that’s what it is.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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