Bridge closure: All too real two weeks out
Read about the Roaring Fork School District’s and other local schools’ plans for getting students to and from school safely during the Grand Avenue bridge detour, including “walking buses.”
This is it, folks. The Grand Avenue bridge closes in less than two weeks, and it’s time to make those final plans to avoid driving during peak traffic times and find alternative modes of transportation to get through and around Glenwood Springs starting Aug. 14
That was the key message from bridge project officials at the second and final community open house held at the Glenwood Community Center Tuesday evening as the city gears up for detour time.
The reality that it’s all very imminent even stopped Colorado Department of Transportation Project Engineer Graham Riddile mid-sentence as he made his PowerPoint presentation before a gathering of about 130 residents.
“That’s the first time I’ve looked at that slide and thought that Aug. 14 doesn’t seem so far away now,” he said.
Rest assured, though, CDOT and its joint-venture general contractor on the project, Granite-Wadworth, are as ready as they’ll ever be, he said.
“We get the question all the time, ‘Are you guys ready?’” Riddile said. “We’ve been preparing for a year and eight months for this day. We are ready to go.”
It hasn’t been without a lot of community cooperation to craft a strategy to help people plan to take the free RFTA buses between Parachute/Battlement Mesa and Glenwood Springs, use the free in-town shuttles, carpool, organize employee van pools, ride their bike, walk … whatever it takes to try to reduce the amount of traffic on the detour route.
Total gridlock will hit when the planned Midland Avenue and Eighth Street detour route that will divert Colorado 82 and cross-town traffic to Interstate 70 Exit 114 climbs to 1,400 vehicles per hour.
Current traffic volumes, with two ways through town, peak at 1,700 to 1,800 vehicles per hour during the morning and evening rush that comes between 6:30-9 a.m. and 3:30-6:30 p.m., Riddile explained.
Project planners hope local residents and commuters alike will voluntarily use traffic-reduction strategies such as taking the bus, sharing rides, biking and walking to take 35 percent of the usual number of vehicles off the road.
“We will be over capacity if no one voluntarily changes,” Riddile said.
Without any traffic reductions, commuters can expect hourlong delays getting through Glenwood Springs. With a 35 percent reduction, the delay should only be 15 minutes.
To help get there, the city has placed some 200 new bicycle parking spaces in racks located at strategic spots, and 40 park-and-ride lots have been designated at various locations.
Steve Smith of the Glenwood Springs Bicycle Advocates citizens group is helping to head up a bicycle ambassadors program during the detour period.
The idea is to line up volunteers who are regular cyclists and who know their way around town to be out on the trails and at critical trail junctions to help people navigate around Glenwood Springs and to follow the rules of the trail.
“We want to be able to help some of the people who maybe haven’t ridden as much, or who are maybe trying bicycle commuting for first time,” Smith said. “We’ll be out there to offer directions, and field suggestions and complaints about how the trails are working or not.”
Trail ambassadors will not have any enforcement authority when it comes to rules, such as the new 6-foot leash law for dogs, giving a verbal warning when passing a slower trail user or making sure bicycles, including pedal-assist electric bikes, obey the 20-mile-per-hour speed limit.
“We can certainly give encouragement for people to slow down and use their hand signals, just those kinds of courtesy things,” Smith said.
Anyone wanting to volunteer for the ambassadors program can contact Glenwood city Transportation Manager Tanya Allen or call 970-618-8264.
Once the bridge is shut down and the detour is put into effect, construction activity will turn to deconstruction of the old bridge, which will last for five to 10 days, Riddile said.
“It will be a little like a bomb going off,” he said. “It’s going to be loud, there are going to be bright lights and lots of truck traffic.”
The bridge will be dismantled starting on the south end and materials hauled off via the detour route, before moving to the north end where materials will be hauled via Sixth Street directly to I-70, he said.
While the old bridge is being torn down and during the time the girders for the new bridge are being put into place, the Colorado River will also be closed to boats, rafts and other watercraft. Commercial outfitters are being allowed by the U.S. Forest Service to do double runs between Shoshone and Grizzly Creek in Glenwood Canyon during those times.