First Grand Ave. bridge pass catches driver by surprise
Trinity Stebleton had just finished her walk across the new Grand Avenue bridge Monday afternoon, joining the throngs of people who turned out for the festive celebration marking the bridge’s opening.
She had no idea as she left Glenwood Springs for her usual commute home to Silt that she would be the very first civilian motorist to traverse the new $126 million span that links Colorado 82 to Interstate 70.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony and walk, Stebleton got into her car parked on one of the side streets near her job at Catholic Charities and entered the queue of cars lining up on Ninth Street to head onto the detour route that has been in place for the past three months.
When she got to the corner of Eighth and Grand, expecting to turn left onto the detour route — as she and her husband, Michael, have done nearly every day since Aug. 14 — she suddenly had a red police wand in her face.
“They were telling me to stop even though the light was green. Next thing I knew they asked me to pull up behind the police officer who had his lights flashing,” Stebleton said.
“It was pretty neat. I just followed the police car, and all the other cars were following behind me,” she said. “It was very smooth, and I was completely shocked how quickly we got onto I-70.”
That hadn’t been the case for the past three months as she and Michael made their way to and from Silt. She said Michael, who wasn’t with her on Monday because he just started a new job with the school district, spent three hours in traffic one night coming home from his previous work in Carbondale.
Stebleton said she was a little sad that he wasn’t with her when she got to be the first to drive across the new bridge.
“He was the one who drove us every morning and every night through this mess,” she said of the long detour backups that had become the norm while the new bridge was being finished.
The momentous occasion was caught on video by Don Kaufman, whose band, Defiance String Band, was providing the celebratory music at the corner of Eighth and Grand during the walk.
“A lot of my friends saw me first in line, and they were cheering. They did a great job with the bridge, it’s just beautiful,” Stebleton added. “The celebration and bridge walk was great … what a historic event.”
All but one of her co-workers at Catholic Charities had been dealing with the commute from the north side of the Colorado River, as well, she said.
“I also want to thank all our volunteers and our clients for working with us through this time,” Stebleton said. “We had to change our hours a little to work around the bridge, and we wanted to let our clients know we were there for them and will continue to be.”
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.