Congestion headache may begin to ease |

Congestion headache may begin to ease

Glenwood Springs Community Center users rejoice: You can begin getting to the facility directly from downtown starting Friday.

A temporary detour route along the edge of the Eighth Street-Midland Avenue intersection opens Friday, allowing travel through the intersection even during its reconstruction this summer.

The opening will provide an immediate benefit for community center users who have had to get to the facility by accessing Midland from west Glenwood, and for residents near the intersection who have had to get home via West Glenwood.

But the Midland route won’t be fully available to commuters passing through Glenwood Springs until Wednesday. Even then, city police chief Terry Wilson said he thinks Grand Avenue will be a better bet for them. Now that the Colorado Department of Transportation has lengthened the green lights on Grand during rush hours, traffic through town appears to be flowing more smoothly, Wilson said.

Although the Midland-Eighth intersection opens Friday, use of Midland will continue to be limited for several days. For starters, the Midland bridge over the Colorado River in West Glenwood will be closed today at 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, as part of work on roundabouts at the exit ramps of Interstate 70. Midland traffic will detour onto Devereux, and vice versa.

Then at 8:30 a.m. Monday, the I-70 Exit 114 underpass in west Glenwood will be closed until Tuesday at midnight. Under that closure, eastbound I-70 traffic during the morning rush hour will be able to exit at the interchange and use Midland to get into town, rather than having to get off at Exit 116 and go over the Grand Avenue bridge. However, evening downvalley commuters won’t be able to reverse that course because they won’t be able to get through the underpass to the westbound on-ramp at the 114 interchange.

Even when Midland is fully open to pass-through traffic come Wednesday, Wilson said he thinks downvalley commuters who work upvalley of Glenwood Springs will be best off using Grand Avenue. Midland Avenue will remain closed just south of Eighth Street for the length of this year’s intersection reconstruction, so Midland traffic still must go downtown and onto Grand. And with Grand Avenue lights geared to moving traffic on that thoroughfare, it’s harder to get onto Grand from side streets.

In addition, travel through the makeshift Eighth Street-Midland detour will be slow, and Midland traffic also will continue to be detoured through the month’s end onto Wulfsohn Road through the Glenwood Meadows project.

Wilson said he thinks Midland will provide a good alternate route for commuters who work downtown, however.

“For those kind of uses it will be helpful and it will reduce that volume all going to the same (Exit 116) ramp,” he said.

If all of this sounds confusing, that’s because it is. And Wilson worries that some confusion might occur Monday and Tuesday among commuters who are able to use Midland in the morning but not at night.

Initially, the underpass work was scheduled to occur Saturday and Sunday. However, CDOT pushed it back two days to accommodate nearby Gilstrap Court businesses, some of them tourist-oriented. They could have taken a heavy hit in lost weekend income by the restricted access to the I-70 interchange.

CDOT spokesman Nancy Shanks said much of this summer’s construction work requires coming to some compromises, and pushing back the underpass closure into the workweek is one of them.

While concerned about confusion among commuters, Wilson said the compromise seems like a fair tradeoff for businesses impacted by construction, “and we’re going to make it work.”

When the underpass is closed, Gilstrap businesses still will be able to reached from eastbound I-70 traffic exiting in west Glenwood, and from Devereux and Midland.

Meanwhile, the Eighth-Street Midland intersection will continue to be subject to occasional closures of a few days at a time over the length of the project. Contractors will try to alert motorists to closures in advance, said Jerry Deverick, project spokesman for Palisade Constructors.

While motorists are being inconvenienced now, “When we’re done they’ll be really pleased,” Deverick promised. “It will be beautiful.”

Shanks feels the same way about the roundabouts.

“When this is done, I think the safety and capacity improvements, everybody will notice that,” she said.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516

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