Bridge open house spurs lots of interest
Two-week 7th street closure planned
Seventh Street will be temporarily closed in both directions during construction hours for two weeks between Colorado and Cooper avenues, starting Monday, Jan. 18 through Jan. 29 for safety reasons associated with the Grand Avenue Bridge project.
The street closure will be in effect from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Grand Avenue wing street will also be closes to vehicle traffic during the coming two weeks.
“This temporary closure is required so that the contractor has safe, controlled access to this area for substructure shoring work, and installation of a temporary storm drain,” according to bridge project officials.
“The construction schedule requires subcontractors working at the same time in the same area,” the latest traffic advisory states. “The closure will allow for both the utility work and shoring work to take place simultaneously.”
The official start of construction on the new Grand Avenue Bridge in Glenwood Springs this month is raising eyebrows and lots of questions, as evidenced by turnout at a public open house on Thursday.
A midday session at the Glenwood Springs Community Center drew more than 100 people to learn more about the massive construction project and how the various impacts are being addressed. An evening session drew an even larger crowd.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has begun construction on the 30-month, $125.6 million project to replace the Grand Avenue/Highway 82 bridge that spans Interstate 70, the Colorado River, the Union Pacific Railroad main line and Seventh Street.
The first of several traffic impacts hit this week as motorists and pedestrians have had to deal with a variety of parking, lane and sidewalk closures along Seventh Street as crews get ready to build a construction platform along the south river bank.
Demolition of the public restrooms beneath the existing bridge and other related work was progressing as well.
Longtime Glenwood Springs resident and former downtown business owner John Graves remembers the metal walkway attached to the highway bridge that used to provide pedestrian access across the river before the separate pedestrian bridge was built in the 1980s.
He’s not necessarily looking forward to the temporary bridge walkway that’s planned when the old pedestrian bridge is removed this spring and set aside for reuse elsewhere, to make way for a new one that’s part of the larger bridge replacement project.
“I walk three miles a day, so the construction is definitely going to change my route,” Graves said at the open house. “I think a lot of people are concerned about how much disruption we’re going to have for the next two years.”
But, like a lot of other people, he and wife Sharon Graves said they are prepared to deal with it.
Longterm, once the project is finished, they both said they are concerned about the planned roundabout at the corner of Sixth and Laurel that will funnel traffic to and from the north and west Glenwood neighborhoods off of the newly aligned highway bridge.
“Roundabouts and moving people will be a toughy,” Sharon Graves said. “It’s such a big change, and there are so many unknowns.”
Another Glenwood Springs resident, Berne Mitton, said the next couple of years would be a good time for locals to plan some long vacations away from town.
“It will be good when it’s all done, but the next two years are going to be challenging for all of us,” she said.
Don and Vicki Taylor said they knew about the bridge project when they moved to Glenwood Springs from Bremmerton, Washington, this past fall.
“My major concern is that intersection right there,” Don Taylor said, pointing to the Sixth and Laurel roundabout as well.
“Some of those turns look like they’re going to be pretty sharp, especially for a truck,” he said.
The three-month-long Highway 82 that is planned for August until December 2017 when the old bridge is demolished and the final section of the new bridge is built is another concern for people during the construction.
“That’s something that’s going to impact all of us severely,” Taylor said.
It was also a key focus of discussion during a formal presentation outlining the next two years of work that was part of the open house.
The detour will carry Highway 82 traffic from the I-70 Exit 114, which will undergo safety improvements, along Midland Avenue past Glenwood Meadows to Eighth Street and a new direct connection into downtown.
Traffic will follow Eighth to Colorado Avenue, where eastbound traffic will turn right to Ninth and back onto Grand Avenue. Westbound traffic will stay on Grand to Eighth and turn left onto the detour route.
Project Public Information Manager Tom Newland said it’s possible the Eighth Street connection could open before August of next year and be used for traffic mitigation.
Long term, the city is hoping to keep the connection in place as a new permanent street, but is working with the Union Pacific Railroad and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority on the details of that plan. The new street connection crosses the railroad spur tracks known as the “wye.”
During the detour period, project officials are also working with the city and RFTA to provide different bus options. That is now to include a shuttle that would avoid the detour by dropping passengers off north of the river, who would then walk across the new pedestrian bridge to waiting buses south of the river to the BRT station at 27th and Grand, Newland said.
The first two weeks of construction have also included related work being done by the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool in its west parking lot, which will be turned over to CDOT as a staging area on Feb. 1.
Pool General Manager Kjell Mitchell said the work involves replacement of a pool discharge tunnel section and sewer line beneath the parking lot, as well as expansion of the pool’s geothermal system to heat the parking lot once the new bridge is built.
In the meantime, access to the pool from Sixth and Grand is available only via the west stairway, Mitchell said.
Once the parking lot is closed, the pool will run a continuous shuttle from its new parking area in the former Bighorn Toyota dealership lot on Sixth Street during pool hours.
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The Glenwood Springs City Council voted to extend the existing face covering mandate for indoor public-facing spaces within city limits during Thursday night’s meeting.