Bridge closure causes Midland Avenue backup in Glenwood Springs
Additional traffic impacts this week
A city water line repair downtown today will require a one-lane closure of northbound Grand Avenue between Ninth and Eighth streets.
The eastern-most northbound lane will close shortly after the morning rush hour, at 9 a.m. and continue until about 3:30 p.m. Parking on the east side of Grand Avenue in the 800 block will be closed from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A short localized water outage may also occur during the repair, according to a city press release.
Also, on Thursday night, the city plans to close part of Midland Avenue between Wulfsohn and Devereux roads for the delivery and installation of a bridge that’s part of the West Midland trail project.
The road will be down to one lane in each direction starting at 6 p.m. Thursday and will be completely closed between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Friday.
The first business day during the more-than-week-long Eighth Street bridge closure in Glenwood Springs Monday saw a long line of traffic on southbound Midland Avenue, as motorists attempted to make their way around the closure during the morning rush.
At one point between about 7:45 and 8:30 a.m., vehicles stretched all the way from the traffic light at 27th Street and Colorado 82/South Glen Avenue, back across the Sunlight bridge, through the roundabout and along Midland to Eighth Street and south toward Glenwood Park.
According to Grand Avenue bridge project officials, the main message to emphasize with morning commuters coming from points west is to stay on Interstate 70 to the main Glenwood Springs exit.
“Exit 116 is the way to go if you’re trying to get through town or into downtown,” Tom Newland, public information manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation, said. “The Grand Avenue bridge is open through this other bridge closure, and the lights favor you that way off of the interstate.”
Newland said he heard of at least one comment indicating some confusion about which bridge was closed, thinking it was the main Colorado 82 bridge. If others had the same confusion, it may have resulted in more cars on Midland Avenue, he said.
An extra test comes today when some of the usual traffic, lessened by the Columbus Day federal and state government holiday on Monday, returns to downtown streets. That will include traffic related to the resumption of activity at the Garfield County Courthouse.
On a somewhat positive note, Newland said it appears the bridge closure will now last through only next weekend, with the plan now to reopen the bridge on Oct. 17 instead of Oct. 19. The full street connection is expected to open on Oct. 22.
For the most part Monday, traffic was slowly but steadily moving on Midland through the 27th Street roundabout.
“There were some obvious signs of confusion, with a few people getting to Eighth Street, realizing the bridge was closed and having to turn around and get in line,” Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson said. “Those who hadn’t gotten the message got it this morning.”
Closure of the bridge across the Roaring Fork River west of downtown is related to construction work in preparation for a new, straight-shot Eighth Street connection from Grand Avenue. It’s part of the larger Grand Avenue bridge replacement project and eventual three-month Colorado 82 detour that’s set for next August.
The city hopes to make the Eighth Street connection permanent after the new highway bridge is completed.
Things went fairly smooth with the morning student drop-offs at both Sopris Elementary School in south Glenwood and at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, which was more directly impacted by the Eighth Street bridge closure.
“Kids were on time, and our buses were on time,” GSES Principal Audrey Hazleton said. “In our communications with parents, we really encouraged them to carpool and to use the bus.”
One parent dropping off a student at GSES, Chad Mickschl, said he left a little earlier than usual to account for the extra travel time.
“It wasn’t a big deal, really,” he said. “It was to be expected.”
Jen Hammerman said her boyfriend reminded her of the bridge closure before she left to take the main bridge into town instead of Eighth. There were no delays coming that way, she said.
At Sopris Elementary, Principal Kathy Whiting said one bus delivering students from the Ironbridge area was late to arrive, and about 35 students got to school late. That was up from the usual 15 or so, she said.
“I did notice a couple more carpools, so that was cool to see,” Whiting said. “We will forgive the tardies today, but by tomorrow we will hope they will be on track to get their kids here on time.”
Roaring Fork School District Transportation Director Jared Rains said there wasn’t a marked increase in bus ridership Monday. The altered bus routes and student pick up points that were put in place on Friday seemed to work out well, he said.
“The real test comes on Tuesday with all government offices and businesses open and traffic volumes returned to their normal levels,” Rains said. “But I don’t expect any real issues.”
To ease traffic congestion at 27th Street and 82, two dedicated left turn lanes were added, and the signal timing was adjusted to allow more traffic to pass through the intersection.
Wilson said that situation could be better addressed for the long term by increasing the signal time even more during the post school drop-off period.
“With the lights at 27th Street you have a tale of two priorities,” Wilson said. “You either keep 82 traffic moving, which works really well earlier in the morning and in the evening.
“But by about 8:40 (a.m.), the nature of that traffic changes,” he said. “We really need to add time to the cycle to get traffic off of Midland,” he said.
Wilson said he and other city officials will stay in communication with CDOT to see if that change can be made.
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Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or email@example.com