Grand Avenue bridge detour review revises traffic reduction need to 35 percent
Motorists trying get through Glenwood Springs while the Grand Avenue bridge detour is in place later this year can expect hour-long delays, unless traffic is reduced by a third during peak weekday morning and evening commutes, according to a new draft engineering peer review of the detour plan.
To get there, bridge construction project officials are taking their “plan ahead, team up and drive less” campaign to the public over the next few months to hammer home the point that everyone — from upvalley commuters and Glenwood workers to parents of school-age students, teen drivers and people just trying to get to and from places around town — needs to seriously rethink their daily travels ahead of the 95-day bridge closure and detour that will begin Aug. 14.
“We really have no other option; people’s personal habits will have to change,” Kathleen Wanatowicz, public information manager for the joint venture general contractors on the bridge project, Granite-Wadsworth, said during the Glenwood Chamber’s economic forum last week.
“During this time, we are going to see considerable delays unless people plan ahead,” she emphasized.
The latest traffic reduction estimates are contained in an independent detour analysis that was done as the $125 million Colorado 82 bridge replacement project nears the critical final stretch toward the new bridge being completed and open to traffic by year’s end.
The study, done by the consulting firm Stolfus & Associates of Greenwood Village, will be detailed in a final report due out next month, according to Tom Newland, project public information manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation. A summary of that report will be publicly released at that time, he said, but project officials have already been revising their public message in the meantime.
Originally, an environmental assessment that was completed well in advance of the start of bridge construction last year indicated peak Grand Avenue traffic would need to be reduced by 20 percent in order for the planned detour to function adequately. Coming from the west, the detour will run from Interstate 70 Exit 114 in West Glenwood onto Midland Avenue and Eighth Street, and back onto Grand via Ninth.
While the 20 percent figure was viewed as a lofty goal in itself, traffic volumes have continued to increase over the past two years, and that percentage has been somewhat revised yet again in recent months.
“Quite frankly, it is kind of a guess … but we did start saying 25 percent and are now using a range of 25 to 35 percent,” Newland said.
What that means in raw numbers is that somewhere between 400 and 800 vehicles per hour (vph) will need to be taken out of the current peak-hour traffic stream, from 6-9 a.m. and again from 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Currently, that morning peak is about 1,700 vph, occurring around 7 a.m., while the evening peak is about 1,800 vph, hitting right at about 5 p.m., according to the latest traffic figures.
The two-lane Midland Avenue detour capacity is about 1,300 vph, and ideally the closer to 1,000 vph during those peak times the better, project officials say.
With no traffic reduction, motorists traveling all the way through Glenwood Springs from one end to the other during the rush hours can anticipate at least an hour. With a vehicle reduction of 25 to 35 percent, that travel time gets reduced to about 15 minutes, Newland said.
“The detour route will be over capacity during peak hours if motorists do not voluntarily change their habits,” he said.
plan now, or suffer
Over the next three months, project officials will be making the rounds up and down the Roaring Fork Valley and to the western Garfield County communities of New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute, speaking to elected officials, schools and civic organizations, service clubs, businesses that rely on commercial deliveries, large employers, construction contractors and others to get the message out about the need to reduce traffic through Glenwood as much as possible.
• Planning ahead means avoiding peak travel times, shifting commute, errand and appointment schedules to off-peak hours, and arranging to work from home or a satellite location that doesn’t require driving through the detour.
• Teaming up means carpooling, arranging for employee van pools, “slugging” rides from designated pick-up locations, and working with neighbors to share rides and errand runs.
• Driving less means riding the various free Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses that will be offered, taking Ride Glenwood buses and other free shuttles that will be offered around Glenwood, parking at a designated lot on either end of the detour and biking or walking from there and combining trips.
RFTA’s west Garfield County Grand Hogback route is being extended to Parachute, with pickups in Rifle, Silt and New Castle. It will be free and run every 30 minutes during peak hours between Parachute and Glenwood Springs.
RFTA and the city of Glenwood Springs are also teaming up to offer connector shuttles on either side of the detour serving the north and west Glenwood neighborhoods, and running between the 27th Street transit station and downtown.
Permits for employee van pools will be available starting July 1, and will be given to any employer or groups that can put together pools of six people or more. The permit will allow use of the dedicated right lane on Grand Avenue during the evening commute and other times of the day, as well as use of Wulfsohn Road bypassing part of the Midland detour route in the morning, Wanatowicz explained at the chamber event.
The city is also finalizing plans and has committed $150,000 for a shuttle to serve the neighborhoods along Donegan Road and north of Sixth Street.
park it and walk
A variety of satellite parking lots to help Glenwood Springs workers be able to park and walk the rest of the way to work are also being studied, but at a potential cost of more than $60,000 each.
Options include a lot near City Hall for city and county workers, converting the west side of the former sewer plant site on Seventh Street into a parking area, and possibly a lot on city-owned property along Centennial Street across from Two Rivers Park. City Council will address the parking plan on May 4.
Owners of some private commercial parking lots on the south end of Glenwood have also agreed to allow “casual” parking during the detour, Wanatowicz said, including Wal-Mart, American Furniture Warehouse and Safeway. The city also continues to work with the Glenwood Springs Mall in West Glenwood for a satellite park-and-ride lot on that end of town.
Several pedestrian safety improvements to help encourage people to walk and ride bikes, such as lighted stop signs and flashing crosswalk beacons, are also being discussed.
“The best way to get across town, really, is going to be the bus,” Mayor Michael Gamba said during a recent City Council discussion. “We have to get people to recognize that … and try to reduce the pain as much as possible.”
Newland said the peer analysis of the detour also addresses likely “pinch points” along the detour, which mostly will occur at the corner of Midland coming onto the Eighth Street section of the route.
“We are looking at anything we can do to keep traffic moving at that point,” he said, adding that Midland south from that point will be limited to local traffic only, as much as that will be enforceable.
Anyone trying to get around the detour northbound from 27th Street to Eighth will run into long backups at the Midland and Eighth traffic light, which will give heavy priority to the detour traffic, he said.