Bridge closure, detour plan pushed to fall 2017 |

Bridge closure, detour plan pushed to fall 2017

The Colorado River flows under the Grand Avenue bridge in September 2014.
Christopher Mullen / Post Independent |

Grand Avenue Bridge project officials are now eying a fall 2017 schedule to take the existing bridge out of commission and institute a 90-day Highway 82 detour while the new bridge is being completed.

“That’s our current plan,” said Joe Elsen, program engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation, who will outline the detour plans in a work session with Glenwood Springs City Council and the city’s Transportation Commission this evening.

CDOT was looking at a three-month period in the spring of 2017 to remove the old bridge and implement the detour until the planned new bridge is able to carry traffic.

However, work platforms that are necessary to do the final work on the south end of the new bridge will be difficult to erect during the height of spring runoff in the Colorado River, Elsen said.

As contemplated in the federal Environmental Assessment for the project, the new bridge is to follow a sweeping alignment from the main Glenwood Springs Interstate 70 interchange and the intersection of Sixth and Laurel across I-70, the Colorado River and the railroad tracks to Grand Avenue.

A final “decision document” for the project is expected to be completed in May, and construction is expected to start later this year or in early 2016.

Most of new bridge and related infrastructure is to be built while the existing bridge continues to function.

However, completion of the final bridge segment will require the old bridge to be removed and a detour to be put in place. That detour is planned to run along north Midland Avenue from the I-70 West Glenwood exit to Eighth Street and into downtown before rejoining Highway 82 and Grand.

The detour is now tentatively scheduled for mid-August through mid-November of 2017.

That does mean the detour will be in place during the usually busy Labor Day weekend that year, Elsen acknowledged.

“Yeah, I wish we didn’t have to do that,” he said. “But we also don’t want to start pushing it into December.”

The fall detour will have its challenges, but also has some benefits over the spring closure.

“One of the good things about spring is that every day it’s getting warmer, where it’s the converse to that in the fall,” Elsen said.

The spring schedule would pose some challenges to complete the work before Glenwood Springs’ Strawberry Days festival in June and the beginning of the busy summer tourist season.

In that sense, the fall schedule could be less disruptive that having the detour in place in the spring, City Councilman Mike Gamba, who is also council’s liaison on the Transportation Commission, noted.

He did indicate that if the late August stretch and Labor Day weekend could be avoided, that would also be preferable.

The “real key” to making the detour work, according to Elsen, will be to work with the city and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to provide extra bus options during that period of time.

The detour plan is contingent on reducing the current level of traffic by about 20 percent. That ultimately means getting people out of single-occupant vehicles as much as possible, and encouraging people to avoid traveling during peak commuter traffic times as much as possible, Elsen said.

The decision to push back the detour schedule a few months should not alter the initial construction plans, he said.

That work will start with replacement of the city’s pedestrian bridge, so that it can be in place when the later work is being done.

While the new pedestrian bridge is being built, a walkway will be attached to the main bridge for temporary pedestrian access across the river between Sixth and Seventh streets, he said.

Other details of CDOT bridge detour plans are to be discussed during the work session this evening, beginning at 5 p.m. at Glenwood Springs City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St., prior to the regular 7 p.m. City Council meeting.

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