Bridge lane closure postponed
UPDATE: Scheduled lane closures on the Grand Avenue bridge to accommodate tree removal as part of the bridge replacement project have been postponed until later in the week.
Project spokesman Tom Newland said Monday that the Colorado Department of Transportation wanted to refine the traffic control plan before starting the work, including having wider lanes. Contractors intend to close one lane of the bridge in each direction between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. while the work is being completed.
Newland said the work will now take place over four days sometime between Wednesday and the middle of next week.
“Our goal is to start on Wednesday, but we can’t guarantee that,” he said. “It just depends on getting those approvals.”
Perhaps the most noticeable traffic impact so far associated with the start of construction on the new Grand Avenue bridge comes this week, as the existing bridge will be reduced to one lane in each direction during daytime hours.
The lane closures won’t be in place for long, though, said Tom Newland, project public information manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Starting today and continuing through Thursday, the bridge extending between Sixth and Eighth streets will be pinched down to the two middle lanes between the “off peak” hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The lane closure is necessary in order to remove trees on the southeast corner of Sixth and Grand where a temporary pedestrian walkway will land when the existing pedestrian bridge is removed. Ultimately, a new, permanent pedestrian crossing is part of the project.
Trees are also being removed from the area beneath the bridge by the Hot Springs Pool, Newland said.
“In order to do it safely we have to close the outside lanes on the bridge and neck traffic down to the two middle lanes,” he said, explained that the work will involve hoisting the trees onto flatbed trucks, which will need to use the outside lanes of the bridge.
The work is planned between the morning and evening rush hours to help avoid long traffic backups, Newland said.
Even then, the contractor will be keeping a close eye out for any major backups and adjust accordingly to try to ease things, he said.
The two lanes that will be open will be 12 feet wide, instead of the substandard 9 1/2-foot lanes that currently exist. The lanes’ insufficient width is one of the main reasons the bridge is being replaced.
Newland said it’s often not known very far in advance when a lane closure or other traffic disruption will be necessary, until preparations begin for a specific aspect of the project.
In the months leading up to the start of bridge construction, city officials had pressed for more information about when such interruptions could be anticipated. But that’s often not known until right before it needs to happen, Newland said.
“We do expect there will be occasional lane closures here and there as we do this work, and this is one of those,” he said.
Another significant impact that will take effect this week and be in place for an extended period of time involves closing one eastbound lane of Interstate 70 in the vicinity of the bridge.
Starting Wednesday, I-70 eastbound at Exit 116 will be reduced to one lane for about 2,000 feet, and traffic entering from the on ramp will need to merge into the single lane.
The lane closure is needed to allow for the start of work on the north side of the bridge where a temporary retaining wall is being built along the riverbank. Speed limits will also be reduced.
Although a decision has not yet been made, Newland said it’s also possible the first nighttime detour of I-70 onto Sixth Street could happen when the temporary pedestrian walkway is being constructed over the interstate.
“That is something we have discussed, but it may not be necessary,” he said.
I-70 will be detoured onto Sixth Street for brief periods during the night when the existing pedestrian bridge is removed sometime in March, as well as when the highway bridge is demolished in late 2017.
The temporary walkway is expected to be in place and functional by March 1, at which time the existing pedestrian bridge will be removed and stored near the city’s dog park. The city is working on plans to use the reuse the bridge as a connection across the Roaring Fork River from Midland Avenue to the area near Glenwood Springs High School.
Also this week, bridge construction work will require the continued daytime closure of Seventh Street between Colorado and Cooper avenues, as well as the Grand Avenue wing street. Parking along Seventh Street in that area is also currently closed.
The eastbound lane of Seventh will reopen after working hours, from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. Weekend construction work is also anticipated for the next several weeks in order to complete the causeway, or bridge construction platform, along the south bank of the Colorado River prior to March 1.
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Construction for the South Midland project is on schedule, though crews will continue to work on weekends to keep the course.