Businesses busy adjusting to bridge detour mayhem | PostIndependent.com

Businesses busy adjusting to bridge detour mayhem

The dismantling of a 64-year-old bridge in downtown Glenwood Springs might just be one of the town's biggest tourist attractions in the coming days.

"It's been a great tourist trap right there for people to watch," said Cindy Svatos, a downtown advocate and shop worker, during a merchants meeting with Grand Avenue bridge project officials Friday morning. A three-month Colorado 82 detour went into effect this week.

The main message for businesses throughout town during the ongoing bridge project is Glenwood remains open for business, those gathered emphasized.

One challenge has been Denver media reports advising people to avoid Glenwood Springs due to traffic jams related to the detour, which project public information officials said they have been working to correct.

For a period of time, Google Maps also incorrectly showed that a portion of I-70 in Glenwood Springs was closed, they said.

GPS-based navigators have also advised motorists, including commercial truckers, to take 82 over Independence Pass, or to take Midland Avenue rather than the designated detour route through town.

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Commercial and recreational vehicles longer than 35 feet are not allowed on Independence Pass, and violations can result in fines of $1,000 or more. County roads, such as Cottonwood Pass from eastern Garfield County to Gypsum, are also off limits to semis and other large commercial vehicles.

City officials have worked to keep through traffic off of Midland, and the signal timing at Eighth and Midland heavily favors the detour traffic. By Wednesday, fewer people were attempting to take Midland and other routes through the middle part of town.

Friday morning traffic was somewhat less than earlier in the week, partly due to the fact that Glenwood Springs City Hall is closed on Friday during the detour.

Many other workers are on four-day workweek schedules, which results in fewer commuters on Fridays, project public information officials noted.

CDOT Public Information Manager Tom Newland predicted the first weekend of the detour would see a constant flow of traffic during the day, rather than the high peaks usually seen during weekday mornings and evenings.

John Bosco, chief operating officer at the Glenwood Hot Springs and Lodge, said business was down compared to the same time period last year.

"We see a natural decrease in business during this week anyway, because of Denver schools starting up," Bosco said. "We were still down more than usual to start the week, but things started to recover [Thursday]."

Bosco agreed the bridge demolition has been a bonus attraction for people staying at the Hot Springs and other lodges north of the Colorado River.

"Our guests typically come in, park at the hotel and walk around town all weekend," he said. "We make a point to apologize for the noise and disruption, but people tell us they actually enjoy watching it all."

A big concern is the disrupted access into and out of the Glenwood Meadows shopping center, which is located along the Midland portion of the detour route. That could hit the city's financial coffers.

Tory Jensen, owner of Thor's Grill on Market Street at the Meadows, said it has been a little confusing for people visiting the shopping center. Wulfsohn Road running to the south of the Meadows is being reserved for buses, permitted van pools and emergency vehicles, and the only way out of the commercial center heading west is at the signalized intersection at West Meadows Drive.

"We've been doing about the same for lunch, but we were down a little bit for dinner on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday," Jensen said. "It was back up yesterday."

He said his workers have also had to find ways to adjust to the detour delays and had trouble getting to work on time during the detour's first few days.

One Meadows worker advised locals coming from up the Roaring Fork Valley to be aware that mid-morning is the best time to get through Glenwood to the Meadows and avoid the traffic.

Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association CEO Marianne Virgili said the organization is working with businesses on various promotions for customers to be entered into prize drawings during the detour.

Some businesses are also coming up with promotions on their own to try to drum up consumer spending around town during the detour period.

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