Blake Ave. traffic troubles abound in afternoon rush
Blake Avenue continues to be a cut-through trouble spot during the late-afternoon rush hour when traffic backs up on the Grand Avenue bridge detour route through Glenwood Springs.
But culling out the detour cutters from those who live, work and run regular errands in the east-side neighborhoods and have a legitimate need to use Blake is next to impossible to enforce, Police Chief Terry Wilson said Friday.
Electronic signs went up this week advising Colorado 82 motorists that Blake is for local traffic only and is not to be used as an alternate route to cut the detour line.
So far, though, Wilson said there’s been no noticeable decrease in traffic headed north on Blake and other side streets during the peak afternoon and evening rush when commuters are headed home to points west after a long day of work.
Police enforcement is limited to catching motorists violating traffic laws, such as running stop signs and speeding through the side neighborhoods.
“The only other thing we could do is shut down Blake, and I don’t think people want to see us do that,” Wilson said. “We need that street for a circulator.”
The Blake situation has been a hot topic on the Roaring Fork Road and Weather Facebook page, where residents have weighed in urging motorists to slow down, respect that it’s a residential neighborhood, and to stay on Grand unless there’s legitimate reason to be on Blake and other side streets.
“We are seeing some leak-through traffic problems with people trying to get off at 27th Street and taking Blake through town,” said Tom Newland, bridge project public information manager.
“We are trying to discourage that as much as possible, and the [local traffic] signs are one way to do that,” he said.
When too much traffic filters into the detour from the side streets, it backs up the detour traffic even more. Especially when motorists go all the way to Eighth, it disrupts the buses that are critical to keeping as many cars off the detour as possible, Newland said.
Three weeks into the three-month detour period while the final segment of the new Grand Avenue/Colorado 82 bridge is being built, things have settled into a fairly predictable pattern.
More people are taking the free RFTA Hogback route bus from western Garfield County and free in-city buses than during the first few days of the detour. And people are still walking and riding bikes to get around town, Newland noted.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is still compiling data on traffic volumes since the detour began, to see where things stand against the goal of reducing traffic by 35 percent, he said.
Release of that data will come sometime after the start of school Tuesday for Glenwood Springs and other Roaring Fork Schools to see how that affects traffic, Newland said.
“My main observation is that if you’re traveling opposite of those peak weekday hours in the morning and evening, you really experience little or no impact going through town,” he said. “But each day kind of has its own personality.”
One adjustment for commuters headed upvalley in particular is that they seem to be leaving earlier in the morning and coming home later in the evening.
Bridge project officials have also been meeting regularly with city representatives and others to assess the detour conditions and determine if any changes need to be made based on some of the suggestions coming through public forums.
That ultimately led to the extension of the dedicated bus/emergency lane south of town, as well as additional signs around town to help direct pedestrians to businesses located near the bridge construction zone.
One suggestion that keeps coming up that will not be acted on is to add a second lane of through traffic on northbound Grand.
“We could stripe it to have extra lanes in some places, but you still have those pinch points in the middle of the detour and people would have to merge back in,” Newland said. “Any gain would be nullified and may even make things worse.”
Wilson added that the special employee van permits are being heavily utilized. The permits allow vehicles with six or more people to use the reserved right-hand lane on Grand and Wulfsohn Road near Glenwood Meadows to get around part of the detour traffic.
“I see a lot of very tired looking construction workers piled into those vans every night heading home,” Wilson said.