Free buses to continue awhile after bridge opens
Though the new Grand Avenue bridge is on track for an early opening next month, local transportation officials are in no huge hurry to immediately end one of the major public benefits that has been in place during the bridge closure period.
Bridge project officials announced earlier this week that the bridge is expected to open to three lanes of traffic at a date to be determined in early November, well ahead of the scheduled Nov. 17 partial opening spelled out to contractors.
That won’t, however, mean the free Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and city of Glenwood Springs buses will stop running right away, RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship said.
The free and expanded Hogback route from western Garfield County and three separate free in-town shuttles have helped reduce the amount of traffic on the Colorado 82/Grand Avenue detour that has been in place since Aug. 14.
“Everything that we have now will pretty much stay in place until Thanksgiving,” Blankenship said of bus services that have been offered at no cost to riders, but were funded in part through a grant from the Pitkin County Elected Officials Transportation Commission.
Included in that was the expansion of the Hogback route to Parachute, where normally it only runs between Rifle and Glenwood Springs. Fares have not been charged for those buses, or for the Glenwood shuttles, during the detour.
RFTA will no longer serve Parachute after Thanksgiving, but the plan is to keep free Hogback service in place from Rifle until Dec. 8. After that, RFTA will go into its winter season schedule and shift its focus to free skier services between Aspen and Snowmass Village.
The free Hogback service has seen about triple the normal number of riders during the detour period, and Blankenship has offered that many of the new riders may want to continue to take the bus. He approached Garfield County commissioners in September about funding the continued free and expanded service into next year, but the proposal was rejected.
Once the bridge does open, the Hogback buses will begin using the bridge and will initially drop passengers at the Amtrak station, rather than the north end of the pedestrian bridge, which has been the practice during the detour. Starting Thanksgiving Day, the Hogback buses will likely go all the way to the 27th Street station, since the Amtrak shuttle service is scheduled to end that day, Blankenship said.
RFTA will run the same in-city shuttle services through the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 22), including the Amtrak-to-27th-Street shuttle, the shuttle between the Roaring Fork Marketplace and West Glenwood Park & Ride shuttle, and another running between the West Glenwood Mall and East Sixth Street via Donegan Road.
The free Donegan Road shuttle has been funded by the city as part of its Ride Glenwood bus service. Starting Thanksgiving, the regular fare-based Ride Glenwood services will resume, with some altered bus stops, Tanya Allen, Glenwood Springs transportation manager, said.
“There will have to be some slight adjustments to Ride Glenwood stops because of the new bridge alignment and roundabout configuration on the north end of town, notably the elimination of the stops at Sixth and Maple and at Sixth near Sioux Villa Curio,” Allen said. “We are still finalizing a few details.”