Grand Avenue bridge on track to open in early November
The new Grand Avenue bridge is expected to open closer to the beginning of November, somewhat earlier than the target date of Nov. 17, project officials announced Tuesday.
Perhaps better yet, the latest plan calls for the critical highway link to be open to three lanes of traffic initially, rather than two, said Tom Newland, project public information officer for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Under that scenario, two lanes will be dedicated to southbound Colorado 82 and Grand Avenue traffic during the morning hours, and will alternate to give priority to northbound traffic during the afternoon and evening rush hours, he said.
“We had minimal problems with the weather, and the contractor’s rapid progress on the critical path work has allowed for a potential acceleration of the 95-day detour schedule,” Newland said.
A specific opening date has not been determined at this time, he said. But project officials should know by next week when that will take place.
“The actual opening day is dependent on weather and other project conditions,” Newland said. Another critical concrete pour between Eighth Street and the south bridge abutment is scheduled to take place this coming week, and expansion joints where the south end of the span begins also need to be completed. So, a lot hinges on that work, he said.
CDOT and its general contractor, Granite/RLW Joint Venture, expect to announce an opening date as soon as next week, Newland said. The early opening would qualify the joint venture for a $25,000-per-day bonus for up to 10 days, or $250,000, if the bridge opens to traffic before Nov. 17.
Once open, the center lane of the bridge will alternate direction based on the time of day, creating two southbound lanes in the morning, and two northbound lanes in the evenings, Newland explained.
At this time, it is anticipated that the reversible three-lane configuration on the bridge will last for no more than two weeks. At that time, the bridge is expected to open to its full four lanes of traffic.
Again, that will be weather dependent, Newland said.
The temporary three-lane configuration will allow the contractor to safely finish work on the concrete barriers, light pole bases and barrier rail along the sides of the bridge, he said.
The bridge opening will occur in the middle of the night when traffic is light, he said. In the meantime, the Colorado 82 detour route using Midland Avenue and a combination of Eighth and Ninth streets and Colorado Avenue downtown will be phased out.
Midland Avenue, Eighth Street and Grand Avenue will revert simultaneously to normal use with the opening of the bridge, Newland said. The merge point near 27th Street and at Interstate 70 Exit 114 will be removed at that time.
The square-about section, including the temporary traffic signal at Eighth and Colorado and the chain-link barriers blocking access to Eighth from Pitkin and School streets may take a couple of days to remove, he said. The intersection at Eighth and Colorado will return to a four-way stop with pedestrian crossings at all corners.
CDOT and the contractors are working with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and the city of Glenwood Springs on a phase-out plan for the free bus services that have been in place since the detour began on Aug. 14.
Some of the free services are expected to continue at least until Thanksgiving, after which RFTA will need to shift its focus to up valley skier services.
“Input and assistance from the city and RFTA is critical to providing a safe and organized move out of the detour and back to normalized conditions,” Newland said.