Bridge project ‘notching up’ as second phase begins
river users info meeting Monday
River guides, anglers, kayakers, rafters, stand-up paddle boarders and other river users are invited to a meeting to discuss river closures that are planned during the Grand Avenue bridge construction project, 4:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 29, at the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub.
The Grand Avenue bridge project enters the second phase of construction starting next week, bringing with it several noticeable new impacts for anyone traveling by vehicle and foot on both sides of the Colorado River.
“The project is definitely turning it up a notch,” Colorado Department of Transportation bridge project spokesman Tom Newland said.
One of the first major “milestones” of the project is the completion of the new temporary walkway, anticipated to open next Tuesday. Workers have been busy attaching the walkway to the existing Highway 82/Grand Avenue bridge for the past several weeks.
For the next year, it will be the only downtown pedestrian crossing over Interstate 70, the river and the railroad tracks between Seventh and Sixth streets as the existing pedestrian bridge is removed and replaced with a new, wider bridge with both elevator and stair access to Seventh Street.
Also, starting this week, crews began clearing trees on the west side of the south bridge landing between Seventh and Eighth streets to make way for a major underground utility upgrade that is part of the bridge project.
That will result in some difficult access at times for businesses in the 700 block of Grand Avenue on both sides of the bridge for the next three months, Newland explained. Access will be maintained at all times during business hours, he said.
The other big impact that will hit the first weekend in March will be a full closure of the eastbound I-70 on and off ramps at Exit 116 while utility work is being done in the vicinity.
That will mean the only eastbound I-70 access and exit will be at Exit 114 in West Glenwood for three consecutive days from March 4-6.
A similar closure of the westbound on and off ramps at Exit 116 will be in effect later in the month, as work moves to the north side of the interchange.
A combination of that work and work by the city of Glenwood Springs to build a new wastewater lift station and by the Hot Springs Pool to construct a new pool discharge pipeline through the east end of Two Rivers Park means the pedestrian access at that end of the park is closed for the next several weeks, at least.
walk this way
Downtown pedestrians, for the next year until March 2017, will have to use a 5-foot-wide attached walkway alongside the vehicle bridge to get from one side of the river to the other.
It comes complete with splash guards on the road side to help keep people from getting soaked by passing cars and trucks on wet days, and will have a tall safety fence on the river side.
The new pedestrian walkway is expected to be operational starting on Tuesday, if not sooner, Newland said.
“There will be enough space for people to pass each other, including bikes and wheelchairs,” Newland said.
However, the narrower existing walkway on the south end of the bridge, which is about 4 1/2 feet wide, remains as part of the temporary pedestrian span, he said.
Anyone with a disability who is not able to use the walkway can still call Valley Taxi for a ride across the bridge, on CDOT’s tab, Newland said. The taxi’s number, (970) 945-4111, is posted on both sides of the bridge.
Newland said the closure of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon last week due to a rockslide actually helped bridge construction crews speed up work on the walkway. A nighttime I-70 closure had been planned for three days earlier this week while work was being done directly over the interstate, but that was not necessary, he said.
The opening of the temporary walkway should come as good news for visitors and locals alike who have tried to navigate the downtown area by foot since bridge work began in January, Marianne Virgili, president and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, said.
“I really look forward to the temporary walkway opening, which will be a big benefit for pedestrians,” she said.
That’s because, with the construction work, anyone walking or riding north over the bridge has had to use the underpass to the west side of the highway bridge and go all the way down to Laurel Street to cross Sixth and come back two blocks just to get to the Hot Springs Pool or Hotel Colorado.
The temp walkway will provide a direct link to that area without any diversions.
During the summer tourist months, Virgili said the chamber plans to have loads of information at the downtown Visitor’s Center advising people how to get around during the bridge construction.
“Our staff has been out walking around and across to Sixth Street just trying to understand what our visitors experience,” she said. The chamber is also preparing a “survival guide” of sorts to help downtown businesses cope with the inevitable disruptions.
Careful that way
The utility work between Seventh and Eighth streets is expected to begin next week as well, and will involve digging a trench in sections where the new utility lines are being laid.
“It will be pretty impactful for the businesses in that area, but we are doing all we can to maintain access,” Newland said. “There will be times when the work will be right in front of businesses’ doors, and we will have to coordinate with their schedules for the best times to be in there.”
New utilities will include water and sewer lines, a new storm sewer line, as well as upgraded fiberoptics, electrical, broadband and cable TV.
Bridges with safety fences will be erected over the trench to allow access into businesses, and there will also be a 6-foot safety fence on either side of the work area, Newland said.
“Anytime you do a big project like this, you don’t want to have to come back in and do that work later,” he said of the decision to do the utility upgrade in conjunction with the bridge project.
Much of that utility infrastructure is upwards of 20 years old, so it was time, he said.
In the meantime, the city has asked restaurants along that stretch to remove their outdoor seating areas while the work is done, and has reimbursed their lease payments during the closure period.
There could also be some brief service disruptions, including water shutoffs, that will need to be coordinated with area businesses and property owners 24 hours in advance.
The goal is to complete the utility work by Memorial Day weekend, he said. That area will again be impacted in September when work starts on the abutments for the new bridge.
Removal of the existing pedestrian bridge will be ongoing for several weeks in March as well, necessitating some nighttime pedestrian access restrictions.
The pedestrian bridge is to be removed in five sections, with each being lifted by a crane and lowered onto a flatbed truck parked on the highway bridge.
The sections will be transported to the vicinity of 14th Street and Coach Miller Drive, where the city is planning to re-erect the bridge to serve as a pedestrian and bike crossing of the Roaring Fork River to Midland Avenue later this year.
While crews are dismantling the pedestrian bridge, the Colorado River will also be closed to river users, including rafter, kayakers and anglers. The closure, meaning watercraft will not be allowed to float through that area, will be in place for at least two weeks, Newland said.
The lone exception will be on Sunday, March 6. A river users outreach meeting is planned for 4:30 p.m. Monday at the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub to explain things.
A party of some sort to celebrate the completion of phase I of the bridge construction is also in the works for March 4.
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