Inside the Chamber column: Observations from Ground Zero — life next to the concrete blonde
As I sit in my office at Eighth Street and Grand Avenue — literally “Ground Zero” of the Grand Avenue bridge project — I’ve made some observations during Week 1 of the reconstruction of this iconic landmark. For me the bridge has developed a persona. I call her the “Concrete Blonde” because she’s tough, she’s bold and she’s in the middle of an extreme makeover.
Observation #1: Our Love Affair with Concrete
My dad was a cement mason. One day we were standing in front of the house getting ready for the cement truck to arrive so he could pour our new driveway. As the vehicle pulled up, we started cheering. Dad grinned and said, “Everybody gets excited about concrete.”
Right on, Dad! If building with concrete is exciting, then a project involving the destruction as well as construction of a massive concrete structure is twice as exhilarating.
Observation #2: We Could Be Turning into an Episode of Saturday Night Live
Daily conversations remind me of “The Californians” SNL soap opera spoof. Do you know it? It’s the one where Kristen Wig and company talk in exaggerated Valley Girl accents, and the dialogue is full of references to routes the characters have taken to get around in California gridlock.
It goes something like this: “Dude, sorry I’m late but the 405 was totally jammed so I had to take Lincoln all the way up to Washington Boulevard.” It goes on from there mentioning alternate routes like the 110 and PCH.
Like the Californians, the first thing out of anyone’s mouth during Week 1 is how they got to, from and around town, all in Roaring Fork Valley vernacular “I parked at the Park-n-Ride in New Castle, picked up the Hogback to the Ped Bridge, walked over to the train station, grabbed RFTA to 27th and hopped on the BRT.”
Observation #3: It’s Easy Being Green
With apologies to Kermit, it is easy being green and fun, too. I have never seen so many bikers wearing civilian clothes instead of the regulation neon bike shirts and shorts. There is a new fraternity among bike riders. First an eye connection, followed by a quick smile and a nod. I think this is the equivalent of our secret handshake, and it means it feels good to be on the same team.
Speaking of teams, my work team is riding RFTA and enjoying time to read a book, catch up on email, make new friends or get reacquainted with neighbors.
Observation #4: Necessity is the Mother of Invention
E-bikes are tricked out to the 9s. The most ingenious vehicle I’ve seen was ridden by a young Mom carrying two kids in a tandem bike seat and hauling a small wagon stacked with groceries.
My secrets: Wear Capri tights under a skirt for biking, keep a pair of sneakers under your desk for walking and have a can of hairspray handy for helmet hair.
Observation #5: Construction is Mesmerizing
Yesterday I noticed a crowd gathered on the 700 block of Grand to watch the destruction of the Concrete Blonde. The excavator reminded one child of a dinosaur as it grabbed pieces of concrete with its massive metal teeth. He said, “Look Mommy, he’s eating the bridge for breakfast!”
Observation #6: There is no “I” in Team (But the Police Chief is Star Quarterback)
Police Chief Terry Wilson has been on my street corner for the past two days directing traffic — how many law enforcement officials do you know who would be that hands-on? But that is Terry and this is Glenwood Springs. We’re a community that pulls together.
To sum up Week 1: From my vantage point, I am struck by the teamwork of the business community, construction workers, law enforcement, city staff and City Council. In fact, the city team has never been more accessible, and, despite an extremely stressful workload, everyone is accommodating and going the extra mile (no pun intended).
Marianne Virgili is President & CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. You’ll see her downtown on foot or her bike during the next 90 days. With the help of the Isaacson School of New Media, you can view live video footage from Ground Zero taken with a camera on top of Colorado Mountain College’s central administrative offices (and her office):.