Bridge closure to affect high school sports travel
August 29, 2017
There's been plenty of focus on how the Grand Avenue bridge detour is affecting rush hour traffic. But what about high school athletic teams?
Glenwood Springs High School is the most directly affected, of course. It's the closest to the detour, and its Grand Avenue location means teams will regularly be subjected to heavy traffic. And it's not just a Glenwood challenge; Roaring Fork, Coal Ridge, Rifle and Grand Valley high schools will also see travel challenges as games carry them along the Interstate 70 corridor.
Glenwood Athletic Director Craig Denney said that Demon athletic teams will leave an hour earlier than normal to ensure an on-time arrival.
"We've informed all of our opponents that are coming in to play us this fall that they need to build at least an extra hour into traveling," Denney said. "They need to just be on the safe side. We've told schools on the Front Range that, as well as the schools traveling up and down the valley here. And we even had a CDOT employee come into a league meeting last May to discuss the bridge project and the ramifications from the closure."
As a contingency, teams may bus to Glenwood Elementary School, where they would disembark and walk to Two Rivers Park. There, they would load onto a second bus, allowing them to get to the interstate faster, Denney said. However, that's not an option for football teams because of the amount of equipment required.
Roaring Fork will also face travel challenges, but Rams' Athletic Director Jade Bath said CDOT has OK'd the teams to use McClure Pass this fall, as long as there are no closures or chain laws in effect. That will allow teams to get to places like Paonia, Delta and Cedaredge much faster. The teams will still leave an hour early for games at Glenwood, Coal Ridge, Rifle and Grand Valley, though.
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"By leaving earlier, we'll have to pull kids out of classes an hour earlier," Bath said. "We made that plan last spring, but it will affect the kids more than anything because they will miss more classes than normal. That's tough; education is important for these kids, so causing them to miss more classes isn't ideal, but it's what we have to work with."
That's a challenge student-athletes will face throughout the area. Traffic could also delay start times.
Roaring Fork Schools Transportation Director Jared Rains said that will be a problem with Colorado High School Activities Association, which isn't flexible with varsity sports. Varsity schedules are set in advance and are difficult to adjust.
High schools will also see costs rise during the bridge detour, largely in bus fees and standard travel fees such as food and sleeping arrangements.
Despite traveling just 42 miles for Glenwood's Labor Day weekend volleyball tournament, Grand Valley volleyball will spend the weekend in Glenwood, said Cardinals activities director and volleyball head coach Dave Walck.
"We don't want to take a chance with traveling back and forth and possibly running into traffic," Walck said. "We have a game that Friday night and then turn around to play the very next morning, so we're going to stay on the south side of the river and play it safe. It's not worth the gamble. We're adapting and maneuvering as best as we can as we deal with the bridge situation so we are making sure we're meeting the needs of the kids, as well as the people who live in the community."