Valley View a big player in detour traffic reduction | PostIndependent.com

Valley View a big player in detour traffic reduction

Dr. Steve O'Brien, with Valley View Hospital's internal medicine team, will be a participant in the hospital's bike-to-work effort using one of the new electric-assist bicycles during the Grand Avenue bridge closure and detour.

Glenwood Springs' largest year-round employer aims to do its part to reduce commuter traffic during the upcoming Grand Avenue bridge detour, and it has everything to do with its customers whose lives could very well depend on it.

Valley View Hospital's goal to encourage at least 40 percent of its 1,200 employees to take the free bus, carpool, bike or walk to work, or otherwise arrange to work off site, is "mission critical," hospital officials say.

Especially for those working in nonclinical support services, it's a must, said Daniel Biggs, director of human resources for Valley View.

"For us, this is a call to action," Biggs said. "We need our employees who can get off the road to do so, because it's a big deal if a patient is stuck in traffic, or if EMS can't respond to an incident on the other side of town."

"Realizing this challenge is part of our mission," added Stacey Gavrell, chief community relations officer for the hospital. "If we have gridlock in this community, it's going to have impacts on the services we provide."

Valley View representatives joined area emergency response officials in coming up with a plan to get emergency vehicles through and around the Grand Avenue/Colorado 82 detour that will be in place for 95 days starting Aug. 14.

That's when the existing Grand Avenue bridge closes and will be torn down to make way for the new span over Interstate 70, the Colorado River, the Union Pacific Railroad and Seventh Street. Until the new bridge is ready, traffic will be diverted onto Eighth Street and north Midland Avenue to I-70 Exit 114 in West Glenwood.

To aid in that effort, Valley View will ensure that key providers are on the south side of the river during peak traffic times in particular, so that they can respond quickly in the event of an emergency, Gavrell said.

Valley View has also secured 10 electric-assist bicycles for physicians and other essential providers to use to get to the hospital if traffic is a problem at a given time.

But the hospital serves far more than just trauma patients, Gavrell noted.

It's also about making sure patients coming to Valley View and other medical clinics for routine doctor visits can get to and from their appointments without delays, she said.

To help facilitate the free flow of traffic along the detour, the Colorado Department of Transportation has been working with local governments, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and major public- and private-sector employers from Glenwood to Aspen to try to reduce current traffic volumes by about 35 percent.

A combination of free RFTA buses serving commuters on the west end of the county, plus free in-town buses and shuttles, a strong emphasis on bicycling and walking, car pooling and using permitted employee van pools are expected to go a long way to accomplish that goal.

About half of Valley View's workforce, or roughly 600 people, live north of the Colorado River from Glenwood Springs to Parachute/Battlement Mesa, Biggs said.

"There's an urgency here that I hope the community appreciates," he said. "We have got to do this, and I'm confident that this is going to go well."

Valley View polled it employees to find out what their plans are for adapting during the detour and is providing incentives for those who find alternative ways to and from work, such as hospital merchandise, food, gift cards and a payroll deduction plan for anyone who wants to buy an e-bike for a discounted price.

"Overall, we are going to meet our goal," Biggs said.

His concern, though, is that after a few weeks of carpooling, taking the bus, biking or walking, people will again become complacent and fall into their old habit of driving to work every day.

The hospital is prepared to re-emphasize the point all throughout the detour period, and will continue to encourage employees to keep up the habit even after the detour, he said.

That also means getting in the habit early before the detour starts, including getting used to bus routes and schedules so that people are ready when it becomes necessary, Gavrell said.

Recently, RFTA representatives were available for employees to learn about the various free bus and shuttle options that will be available. Groups of employees have also been encouraged to organize car pools, she said.

Some clinical services can also be offered at Valley View's satellite locations in Silt, Carbondale and Willits. Shifting doctors and their staffs to those locations, and having patients go there instead of coming to Glenwood, will also take cars off the road, Biggs said.

For a hospital employee who does take the bus or parks a car north of the river and bikes in to work, Valley View is also arranging for "just in time" rides if someone has a personal emergency or something that requires them to get back home quickly.