Employers assess ways to cut traffic during detour
Grand Avenue Bridge project officials aim to take 700 cars off of Colorado 82 at rush hours, a 35 percent reduction, during the bridge detour later this year. If they’re to succeed, it will be up to some of the area’s larger employers to “lead the pack.”
That was one of the key messages at a roundtable meeting Wednesday at Glenwood Springs City Hall. The meeting drew more than 100 representatives of businesses, including construction contractors, commercial delivery truckers, hospitals, health clinics, banks, nonprofit organizations, auto dealers, schools, retailers and government organizations.
For its part, Garfield County government will shift a significant portion of its workforce to facilities in Rifle during the 95-day detour period, which begins Aug. 14.
Valley View Hospital has more than 500 employees who live north of the Colorado River in Glenwood and farther west along the Interstate 70 corridor, according to its human resources director Daniel Biggs.
“This is a huge deal for us,” Biggs said after the meeting. VVH employees will be encouraged to take advantage of the free Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus service from New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute, as well as the multiple free in-city shuttles that will be in place.
“We want our people to be starting to get used to the bus ahead of that Aug. 14 date,” he said. “They should be starting to do that in July.”
Shifting work schedules is difficult for the hospital itself to accomplish. But with Valley View’s clinic facilities in Silt, Carbondale and Basalt, as many employees who can work off-site, and as many patients who can schedule appointments in those locations, the better, he said.
Pediatrics and some women’s health care can be done at the satellite clinics. The Callaway-Young Cancer Center has also begun working with Grand River Health Center in Rifle for certain cancer treatments and follow-up procedures, Biggs noted.
The city of Glenwood Springs is taking a proactive approach with its own workforce to reduce the number of cars on the roads.
The city will switch to a four, 10-hour-a-day workweek Monday through Thursday during the detour, and City Hall will be closed on Fridays for those three-plus months, City Manager Debra Figueroa said.
City employees who ride the bus, walk or ride their bikes from park-and-ride lots will be allowed to use city-owned vehicles to run errands during the day. The city is also buying three electric bicycles for city employee use for getting around town. The city has agreed to allow use of e-bikes on paved city trails during the detour.
The Glenwood Springs Police Department will also rely heavily on e-bikes to get to any emergency calls within the downtown core area, Police Chief Terry Wilson said.
“It will be our primary response mechanism in the downtown area during those peak hours,” he said, adding his department is buying four e-bikes in addition to the other city bikes. The fire department will also use them.
A police officer or EMT can get to the scene by bike and control the situation faster than the time it might take a patrol car, he said.
“We also expect that we will have more bike and pedestrian traffic on our trails than ever before during the detour, and it will be good to have our people out there making sure people are following the rules and that they’re safe,” Wilson said. “We want those paths to be a safe alternative transportation corridor.”
Current Grand Avenue and Midland Avenue traffic peaks at about 1,700 vehicles per hour during the morning rush from 6-9 a.m., and about 1,900 per hour during the evening rush between 3:30-7 p.m., project engineer Graham Riddile explained. The detour route will be at capacity at around 1,300-1,400 vehicles, he said.
“As you can see, those morning and afternoon peaks are well above capacity,” Riddile said. “Once that bridge goes down, we’re going to experience something that we’re very much not used to in this valley.
“If no one changes, it’s going to be bad, it’s that simple,” he said.
To encourage workers and others to self-organize car pools and shared errand runs, the bridge project public information team has split Glenwood Springs into five neighborhood zones. There, residents are urged to work together to come up with travel solutions during the detour.
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An upholstery shop on the outskirts of Carbondale caught fire June 25, but was quickly extinguished.