| PostIndependent.com

27th Street Bridge Project to conclude early next year

On Nov. 14, 2018, the city of Glenwood Springs held a ceremonial groundbreaking event for its 27th Street Bridge Project.

One year later, the estimated 14,000 vehicles that cross the 27th Street Bridge daily no longer do so over one of the worst-rated bridges in the state.

Structurally deficient and functionally obsolete, the old 27th Street Bridge earned a 10.5 out of 100 rating from state inspectors before its replacement earlier this year.

According to public information officials, although significant milestones have been completed on the 27th Street Bridge Project, significant work remains.

In addition to completing a retaining wall on the south side of the bridge, crews need to finish masonry and utility work as well as the roundabout’s construction.

“Right now crews are working on deep utilities that are in the roadway and that includes some sanitary sewer and irrigation lines,” Bryana Starbuck, 27th Street Bridge Project public information manager, said. “That is what crews will also be working on during the eastbound and south leg intersection closure that begins on Thursday.”

Beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday and lasting until 6 a.m. Monday, 27th Street between Midland Avenue and State Highway 82 will close to eastbound traffic.

“[During the closure] the 27th Street Bridge itself will only allow westbound traffic. So, that is traffic coming from Highway 82 and going toward Midland Avenue,” Starbuck said. “Traffic coming from Midland Avenue wanting to cross the 27th Street Bridge will be diverted down to Eighth Street.”

Between 9 a.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Monday, the south leg of the intersection at 27th Street and South Grand Avenue will also close to traffic.

According to Starbuck, with the exception of minor landscaping work in the springtime, the 27th Street Bridge project will conclude, likely, at the end of January.

“We have a stellar safety rate on this job,” Jessica Bowser, assistant city engineer, said. “It’s been great. I don’t think we’ve had any slips, trips or falls.”

However, because the project’s timeline was delayed, city council amended the construction management contract last week.

“We’ve had extended work weeks and working hours,” Bowser said at the Nov. 7 council meeting. “A lot of overnight shifts that have had to be facilitated for our utility installations and things like that in order to try and reduce traffic impacts.”

The amendment adds an additional $164,851 to the construction management contract.

mabennett@postindependent.com

CDOT gives Aspen roundabout ‘D’ grade; city council considers traffic study

The Colorado Department of Transportation doesn’t believe the Aspen roundabout functions properly and as a result, changes could be coming by the state agency that oversees Highway 82.

Which specific changes is a question that members of Aspen City Council have as they were asked Monday if they supported a $100,000 consultant study on traffic patterns in advance of CDOT’s work in 2022.

Part of that work will be a city-CDOT partnership to replace the asphalt with concrete, because the roundabout, which sees thousands of cars daily, is prone to potholes each year.

Council members were skeptical of the cost of the study without understanding its scope, as well as not having detailed information from CDOT on potential changes.

While that information will be given to council prior to it considering a contract with Kimley-Horn, a planning and design consulting firm with an office in Snowmass, City Manager Sara Ott said the study is key to the municipality working with a state agency.

“What typically happens if you want to advance the project, you have to take the risk with baseline data and assembling that, quite frankly, for your negotiations with CDOT on what improvements they will make along the state highway,” she told council during a work session Monday.

Ott added that without getting unified data on traffic flows on the busy adjoining Castle Creek and Maroon Creek roads, funding from CDOT for the roundabout could be in jeopardy.

“CDOT isn’t going to be interested in a conversation without it,” she said.

Ott said she and other city staffers have been in talks with CDOT about this issue for a couple of months.

City Engineer Trish Aragon and Pete Rice, the city’s senior project manager in the engineering department, said possible changes include metering signals to help create gaps in traffic, as well as softening curb extensions, or reconfigurations within the existing roundabout.

“(CDOT) believes the roundabout is not functioning the way it could be,” Aragon said, adding state officials would want to do all of the work at once, when the concrete is poured. “CDOT is looking at the roundabout. They found out we were looking at Maroon and Castle and they said, ‘This will fit well so the work is coordinated.’”

Rice said on a scale from A to F, CDOT rates the Aspen roundabout a D.

“There are subtle changes that could be made, and they do make a difference,” he said.

He noted that CDOT is underfunded and cannot afford to do a complete study of the roundabout and its feeder connections.

City officials said they hope information from the study will lead to solutions on how to improve traffic flow during rush hour on those roads, as well as how cars interact with roundabout.

“We get a lot of complaints on Maroon and Castle Creek roads,” said Aragon on Monday prior to council’s work session. “We can’t clear out the roundabout.”

She added that the complaints have been coming in for years and run the gamut in the community — skiers, parents of school district students, commuters on Highway 82, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, Aspen Valley Hospital, the U.S. Forest Service and residents who live off those roads.

Many of the organizations and entities that are located off Maroon and Castle creeks have done their own traffic studies, but one unified one is necessary, according to Jack Danneberg, the city’s project manager in the engineering department.

“There is insufficient data counts at the roundabout because these past projects focused only on information pertaining to their site,” he wrote to council in a memo. “Obtaining holistic data on traffic congesting in the roundabout will lead to better decisions for any modifications that can be made during the 2022 concrete replacement project.”

If approved by council, the consultants would compile other entities’ existing data and coordinate with them. Then, they would present minor modifications that are aimed at making bigger impacts in traffic flow as stopgaps prior to CDOT’s changes.

Aragon noted that no major modifications would be planned that require infrastructure or changes to the alignment of Highway 82.

City Council members last month discussed their concerns and desire to fix traffic congestion on roads that feed into the roundabout. They said at the time they plan on having a larger conversation with potential fixes in early 2020.

The consultant study was at the request of a previous council to find ways to ease school and skier traffic congestion in the late afternoon on Maroon Creek Road.

It was presented to the current council as a check-in, since the request for proposals went out this summer and Kimley-Horn was one of two firms that bid.

Aragon said prior to council’s work session that motorists have noticed striping changes in the roundabout that were made by CDOT last week in an effort to improve traffic flow.

A solid yellow line now delineates two lanes, with dotted lines painted coming off it to signal motorists to move into the outside lane if they are planning to exit onto Maroon Creek or Castle Creek roads.

Aragon said drivers are hesitant to move into the outside lane for fear that those entering from the west will cut them off or hit them so they stay in the inside lane until it is time to exit.

“You kind of play this chicken game,” she said of motorists’ patterns. “CDOT believes that will improve traffic and thinks it’s safer that way.”

csackariason@aspentimes.com

Winter already? Snow, deep freeze from Rockies to East Coast

CHICAGO (AP) — An arctic air mass that brought snow and ice to an area stretching from the Rocky Mountains to northern New England on Monday was poised to give way to record-breaking cold temperatures.

Snowfall totals could reach up to a foot or more in some areas of Indiana, Michigan and Vermont, according to the National Weather Service. Other places in the path of the air mass saw ice and rain. Denver saw just a few inches of snow but suffered numerous accidents on icy roadways because the snow fell during the morning commute.

The snow and ice was just the first punch from a weather system that pushed frigid air from Siberia across an area stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast. Temperatures below freezing were forecast as far south as Texas’ Gulf Coast.

“This is an air mass that’s more typical for the middle of January than mid-November,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Birk. “It is pretty much about the coldest we can be this time of year (and) it could break records all over the region.”

Winter doesn’t officially start until December 22 this year.

According to Birk, the lows on Tuesday could drop into the single digits or low teens in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa, with highs climbing no further than the low 20s. The forecast high of 21 degrees (-6 Celsius) for Chicago would be a full seven degrees lower than the previous record set for Nov. 12.

In some areas, temperatures plunged quickly. Temperatures in Denver climbed past 70 degrees (21 Celsius) over the weekend only to fall to 14 degrees (-10 Celsius) early Monday.

One area where the low temperatures was particularly concerning was in central Wyoming, where officials were searching for a 16-year-old autistic boy who went missing wearing only his pajamas on Sunday, prompting a search that included certified human trackers, helicopters, dogs, and planes.

The National Weather Service said areas west of the Rocky Mountains would be spared the arctic air, with above average temperatures expected in some of those places.

6 fatal accidents on Colorado state roads this past weekend

DENVER (AP) — The Colorado State Patrol says six people died in six separate accidents on state roads over a 12-hour period this past weekend.

Col. Matthew Packard, chief of the state patrol, says six fatal crashes occurred between about 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. Sunday involving either excessive speed or alcohol.

The accidents included a pedestrian hit while standing on the road and a handicap-accessible van that resulted in the death of a man in a wheelchair inside the van.

Officials say more than 500 people have been killed on Colorado roadways so far this year.

Changes coming to Third Street and Railroad Avenue in Rifle

The city of Rifle released design concepts last week for proposed projects for Third Street and Railroad Avenue in downtown Rifle.

More than 50 people filled the upstairs meeting room at the Rifle Library to hear the proposals on the three concepts,which are slated to begin in 2020.

The project includes Third Street from West to East avenues and Railroad Avenue from Second to Fifth streets.

Officials said that the current streets, sidewalks, landscaping and utilities need improving, which the projects propose to do.

Craig Spaulding, city of Rifle civil engineer, said the project would help alleviate the groundwater issues that are causing premature failure on Railroad Avenue.

Working with downtown business owners, the city is hoping to enhance the downtown area and make it more inviting for the public and visitors as part of the project. 

Three concepts were presented each with varying degrees of differences for citizens to look over and give feed back.

Planning Director Nathan Lindquist said the concepts are a preliminary design and the final concept will likely be different.

“There’s ways to keep adjusting everything, so don’t look at these as any of the details are set. It’s very much still flowing and so we can mix and match different things,” Lindquist said. “If there’s an idea you like then keep that and fix everything around it. Keep that in mind. It’s more important to get this right and take a long time do it, than just do it fast and get it done.”

Each concept adds permanent outdoor dining space for downtown restaurants.

Lindquist said that the downtown is changing and entertainment and restaurants are the future of the Third Street and Railroad corridor.

During the meeting officials pointed out a few cons to the project including reducing parking on Third Street.

Currently, there are 35 parking spots on the east block of Third Street; with concept one parking would be reduced to 25. Both concepts two and three would take 13 parking spots away.

The lost parking spots are due to changing parking angles and the addition of patios.

“Currently it’s 60-degree parking, and we have all seen the trucks sticking out a little bit, and when you back out you have to back into the other lane,” Spaulding said.

“To remedy that you can go to the 45 degree, which make the parking more convenient both in and out.”

Spaulding said it also gives you two more feet of street or sidewalk you can use. The downfall is you lose about two spots for every 11 spaces.

With the proposed loss of downtown parking the city is currently looking at managing parking better and how to add more public parking to the area.

“Parking is extremely important to the success of businesses, and I think regardless of what happens on Third and Railroad its probably overdue for us to do a larger parking plan and really thinking about parking downtown as a whole,” Lindquist said.

With a limited budget the city is applying for grants that will pay for the project, which is slated to begin later in the summer next year.

Both Spaulding and Lindquist said that depending on funding the project could be stretched over two summers until it is complete.

The city is looking for feedback of which concept the public would like to see, and which ideas will work best for the future of Rifle. 

A Third Street Design Survey survey will be hand delivered to business in the downtown. Use the following link to take a survey on the planned Improvements: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/862RTFN.

kmills@postindependent.com

Third Street and Railroad Avenue concept one.
Concept 1 24×36
Third Street and Railroad Avenue concept two.
Concept 2 24×36
Third Street and Railroad Avenue concept three.
Concept 3 24×36

Colorado Avalanche Information Center to begin daily reports

FRISCO — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center announced on its social media channels Tuesday that the state-supported nonprofit will begin conducting its 2019-20 season daily weather and avalanche forecasts.

The center will issue daily regional backcountry avalanche forecasts for the northern, central and southern Rocky Mountains throughout the state by 3 p.m. daily starting Friday. The forecasts will cover the ensuing 48-hour period. The organization also will issue its daily weather forecasts for 11,000 feet by 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day.

As of Wednesday afternoon, forecaster Mike Cooperstein issued the following statewide avalanche discussion update.

“Watch for areas of wind drifted snow at higher elevations,” Cooperstein wrote. “You are most likely to find wind-drifted slabs just below ridge lines, in high elevation gullies, or near the top of convex rollovers. These drifts may look smooth, like pillows of snow, may feel hard, and could sound hollow. The most dangerous slopes are high elevation northerly and easterly-facing slopes where old weak snow sits below the new and recently wind-drifted snow.

“Any time there is more than about 10 inches of snow on a slope, avalanches are possible. Almost every season someone is caught and carried by an avalanche this time of year. If you are caught the ride will most likely be rough and dangerous as you are dragged through the rocks and bounced off of objects buried under the shallow snow. … Don’t underestimate the consequences of getting caught in a small avalanche in the thin-snowpack.”

For more information and to monitor daily forecasts, visit colorado.gov/avalanche.

Frigid temperatures allow early start to snowmaking on Aspen Mountain

Frigid temperatures are allowing Aspen Skiing Co. to get a little bit of a jump on snowmaking on Aspen Mountain.

Skico plans to run five guns in the area between Grand Junction and the top of Little Nell over the next few days, according to Jeff Hanle, vice president of communications. The company will make snow where it can supply water through gravity, he said.

Snowmaking on Aspen Mountain typically begins at midnight Nov. 1, as Halloween comes to a close. Skico has an agreement with Holy Cross Energy that makes it more cost effective to start using the energy necessary to pump water uphill starting in November, according to Hanle. More extensive snowmaking will begin this year Nov. 1 on Aspen Mountain.

Skico won’t have an issue with temperatures being cold enough for snowmaking for the foreseeable future. Aspenweather.net forecast the low in the Aspen area at -6 degrees Wednesday.

“Remember, it has never been below zero in October in the valleys,” the forecasting firm wrote in its forecast Monday. “If this happens it’s pretty remarkable.”

Aspen Mountain picked up about 5 inches of snow on mid-mountain Sunday night and 4 inches at the summit. More snow is in the forecast.

Hanle said Aspen Valley Ski Club plans to start making snow on training slopes at Aspen Highlands this week ,as well.

In addition, bootpacking is scheduled to begin Wednesday in Highland Bowl, he said.

Aspenweather.net forecasted a slow start to the ski season at its winter preview party Oct. 3. Meteorologist Cory Gates has since changed his outlook.

“We are in a very low solar year. 2019 will end up setting the all-time Space Age record for lack of sunspots,” Gates wrote Friday. “Based on statistics, low solar years have generally boring Octobers around here 60 percent of the time. This October is defying statistics and we will have well below-normal temps with well above-normal snow by month’s end.”

Independence Pass closes for the season, earliest in nine years

The snowstorm that blew in Sunday night and Monday morning was enough of a winter blast to close Independence Pass for the season on the earliest date in nine years, a spokesperson said.

“It was getting very difficult for our crews to keep up with the amount of snowfall on the Pass,” said Lisa Schwantes, spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Transportation. “Once that happens … it’s safer to just call it so we closed it for the season.”

The decision to close the Pass on the Aspen and Twin Lakes sides was made about 7:45 a.m., she said. It’s the earliest closing since 2011.

Independence Pass closed Nov. 5 last year, Schwantes said. It generally reopens the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend.

Fire sparks near New Castle again on Friday

Commuters traveling along Interstate 70 near the town of New Castle encountered yet another small fire Friday morning.

Early Thursday, a brush fire burned a little over 1 acre on I-70’s eastbound shoulder near New Castle at mile marker 107.

Additionally, Friday’s small fire sparked in a similar location near mile marker 105 also on Interstate 70’s eastbound shoulder.

According to Colorado River Fire Rescue spokeswoman Maria Piña, Friday’s fire was approximately 300 feet long and 50 feet wide.

The blaze, which shut down both of Interstate 70’s eastbound lanes for roughly one hour, was reported at 7:59 a.m.

Colorado River Fire Rescue was able to extinguish the fire by 9 a.m. with no injuries or property damage to report.

The cause of Friday’s fire was ruled undetermined.

When questioned about the possibility of arson given the similar timeframe and location of the fires, Piña said that too was undetermined.

“[Fire investigators] can’t find any evidence of anything,” Piña said.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Man drives off Independence Pass in new truck pulling trailer

A man driving a new truck and pulling a motorcycle on a trailer drove off the side of Highway 82 near the Independence Pass winter closure gate Saturday morning, an official said Tuesday.

The 50-year-old man was not injured in the single-vehicle accident where the 2019 Chevrolet truck went down an embankment or a ravine, said Colorado State Patrol Trooper Josh Lewis.

No drugs or alcohol were involved in the accident, he said. The vehicles had been towed back up to the road.