Glenwood High adapts to Grand Avenue bridge closure
Post Independent Contributor
It would be hard to find anyone at Glenwood Springs High School whose life hasn’t been affected by the Grand Avenue bridge closure.
“I had to get up at 4,” said Gabe Suarez, a GSHS senior who attends basketball practice before school three mornings a week. “It takes about an hour to get from my house to school.”
For Suarez, the traffic is a huge part of his day because he not only drives from New Castle to Glenwood before school for basketball, but he also drives from Glenwood to Aspen each afternoon for his Aspen High School varsity tennis practice.
“I’d probably say the traffic from my house in the morning is worse,” Suarez said.
Unlike Suarez, many other GSHS students and faculty choose not to drive, instead walking, biking or using the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus system.
Jocelyn Kochevar, a GSHS guidance counselor, leaves her house in New Castle at 6:15 a.m. weekdays not only to get herself to school on time, but also to get her 3- and 7-year-old sons to school and day care.
“We catch the RFTA at 6:42, which takes us to the north end of the pedestrian bridge, where we get off and walk,” Kochevar explained. “The walking takes a really long time for a 3-year-old, and we have to take the elevator when we get to the other end because that’s the only way I can make them get across the bridge.”
When in Glenwood, Kochevar uses a bike fitted with seats for both her boys to ride behind her. They arrive home around 6 p.m. every night.
GSHS senior Nina Aley has also found that it is easier for her to ride her bike to school in the morning than to sit in the backed-up construction traffic.
“Before the construction I always knew that I should be riding my bike but like everyone else I loved the convenience of getting in my car and putting in little effort to be somewhere fast,” said Aley. “Biking early in the morning seems like it would be a miserable experience, but I have actually found it to be something that I enjoy.”
Last spring, high school administrators held an all-school meeting to inform students of the school’s plan to reduce traffic.
“The district starting school late was key,” said GSHS Vice Principal Patrick Engle, referring to the Roaring Fork Schools decision to start classes Sept. 5 to let others adapt to the closure, which started Aug. 14.
“I predicted that there would be a huge spike in traffic on Tuesday the 5th getting to school, and that didn’t happen. I think that students and parents had the foresight to see that riding the bus, using the school bus and the walking school bus, even riding bikes, was going to be the way to go.”
Although tardiness was a concern, Engle reported that the number of students late during first period has actually decreased. Another big concern for the administration was the large number of students crossing Grand Avenue during lunch to go to City Market.
“Originally, the plan was to ask kids to go to the 12th Street underpass,” Engle said. “It turns out that CDOT had done such a great job with flushing traffic out at that time, that we looked and decided that there isn’t a real need for students to have to go to 12th Street. So, what we’ve done is that we’ve stationed a teacher at the traffic light, just to make sure that kids are getting across the road safely and returning safely.”
Along with getting students to and from school, the administration also had to figure out how to get athletes to and from sporting events.
“Up to one hour has been built in to make sure that athletes arrive on time,” said Craig Denney, GSHS athletic director. “We are also not seeing the crowds [at games] that we normally see, due to construction.”
The extra travel time has been hard on many of the athletes.
“In some classes, I’m falling behind a little bit,” said sophomore Amos Wilson, who plays for both the varsity and junior varsity football teams. “I’m missing a test when we leave early for our game this week.”
Overall, the administration and students seem pleased about how the school has adapted to bridge construction.
“Everybody by where I live in Eagle keeps asking me, ‘What’s going on in Glenwood?’ and ‘How’s the traffic?’” said Engle. “I keep telling them that this has never happened before, so we’re in uncharted waters, but I think that we are overall doing an amazing job.”
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UPDATE: Both westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of Interstate 70, according to a 12:20 a.m. update from Garfield County.