Glenwood Springs builds custom barriers to keep wayward trucks on road
Guard rail damaged near 27th Street Bridge to be replaced with ‘rub rail’
On the northwestern corner of the 27th Street roundabout, orange traffic barriers serve two purposes: reminding truck drivers not to turn onto the bridge from South Grand Avenue and protecting the remaining guard rail from drivers failing to heed the warning.
In August, a trucker driving a “WB67,” Colorado’s longest legal semi-truck and trailer configuration, ignored city signage indicating the roundabout was for through truck traffic only. The driver attempted to turn onto the 27th Street Bridge, overtracked and caught the guard rail under its trailer, destroying several feet of rail in the process.
Now, the city is looking into options for preventing similar accidents, including installing a custom-built “rub rail” and adding visual signage to further indicate the roundabout cannot facilitate turning trucks, said Jessica Bowser, Glenwood Springs’ assistant city engineer.
“This sort of thing happens because trucks are following Google maps instead of staying on designated truck routes,” Bowser said.
Public Information Officer Bryana Starbuck said Garfield County has experienced a number of recent incidents related to buses and semi-trucks traversing roads designed for smaller vehicles.
“We’ve seen this challenge a lot, like with the Greyhound bus on the Flat Tops,” Starbuck said. “And it’s easy to understand, because so many of us are reliant on Google maps to get us around traffic.”
Signs along South Grand Avenue advise long-vehicle drivers that the 27th Street roundabout is not designed for wide turns, but Bowser said the city is working on adding signs with visuals, showing drivers the route’s limitations as well as telling them.
“They seem to miss the verbal signage that is in place,” she said.
Some residents questioned why the roundabout was not designed to better accommodate truck traffic, but Bowser said it’s not as easy as it sounds.
“We considered alternative configurations, a larger roundabout and keeping the old traffic signal,” she explained.
But the options would require widening the bridge and acquiring more of the surrounding properties, which might have doubled or tripled the 2019 bridge replacement budget.
“The bridge had to be replaced, and the city tries to fix as many problems in a project area as possible,” Starbuck said. “Prior to the bridge replacement, there was a safety concern at that intersection and a problem with traffic backing up, which created further safety concerns.
“We try to balance costs with safety.”
Given the need to improve safety and the long list of project considerations, including geographic constraints, traffic patterns — transportation system infrastructure, right-of-way needs, cost, impact to residents and businesses, river impacts, utility conveyance — the current roundabout configuration was selected because it was the most economical option with the least amount of permanent impacts and could pair well with the South Bridge project, Starbuck wrote in an email.
Bowser said the city is working on a custom 4-foot-tall rub rail to replace the damaged guard rail. A rub rail is designed to keep a long vehicle on the road by creating a barrier it can rub against in the event the driver overtracks a turn, instead of a guard rail, which is low enough to catch under a truck trailer.
“The barriers will keep trucks in the roadway where they need to be,” Bowser said. “But they need to be poured custom, so we are working to build those in house.”
Pandemic-related supply chain issues have slowed delivery of the materials needed to create the rail, but she said the city could have the new barrier in place by February.
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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