Get ahead of detour planning, CDOT urges employers
The start date for next year’s Grand Avenue bridge construction closure and three-month Colorado 82 traffic detour is official: Aug. 14, 2017.
Glenwood Springs employers gathered for a Monday meeting to begin planning ways to reduce peak-hour traffic during the detour period were the first to be advised of the launch date.
Contractors will have 95 days from that time to complete the final segment of the $125 million bridge across the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, the Colorado River and Interstate 70 and open the new span to at least one lane in each direction, Kathleen Wanatowicz, public information manager for the project, said.
The detour will route eastbound 82 traffic from Interstate 70 Exit 114 along a two-lane route using Midland Avenue, the new Eighth Street connection into downtown, and back onto Grand Avenue.
A one-way “square-about” west of Grand will funnel eastbound traffic onto Colorado Avenue to Ninth Street and onto Grand. Westbound traffic will stay on Grand to Eighth Street and turn left onto the detour route.
There will be signalized intersections at Eighth and Colorado and again at Midland and Eighth, where traffic lights will favor the detour route over side street access, Wanatowicz said.
Leading up to that time, she said it will be critically important for the public, including major employers, to begin thinking about ways to modify their daily routines to try to achieve the targeted 20 to 25 percent reduction in peak-time traffic.
Based on a 2012 study, the morning peak hits on weekdays between 7-8:30 a.m., when bridge project officials hope to take up to 400 vehicles off the road from current traffic levels, Wanatowicz said.
If businesses can find ways to encourage use of mass transit, carpools, van shuttles, bike and walk incentives, or flexible work schedules, it would be a big help, she said.
“We’re an 8 o’clock town,” Wanatowicz said. “That’s when everyone is trying to get to work or school or wherever they’re going.”
The evening peak is more pronounced and usually hits right around 5 p.m. That’s when it will be necessary to reduce traffic by up to 500 vehicles per hour in order to allow for a 30-minute travel time through Glenwood Springs.
Otherwise, it’s likely to take one hour or more to get through town during those peak times, she forewarned. During other times of day, the travel time through Glenwood should be about 15 to 20 minutes.
Larger employers in particular, such as Valley View Hospital, the Hot Springs Pool, hotels and major retail stores, are being asked to think about ways to encourage their workers adjust accordingly.
Roaring Fork Transit buses will run for free between Glenwood Springs and Parachute during the detour period, serving New Castle, Silt and Rifle along the way. Several in-town shuttle routes will also be in place.
Variable work schedules, such as four-day work weeks and working from home-based offices are also ways for employers to help keep cars off the roads.
Alterations in non-work- or non-school-related travel, such as for shopping or recreation, are also being encouraged.
“We do think people will self-motivate and innovate about how they get around, but we can’t rely on that,” Wanatowicz added. “Employers really need to think about these strategies.”
Park-and-ride options within Glenwood Springs are short on solutions at this point, especially in West Glenwood.
Mayor Mike Gamba said the city is looking at providing additional downtown parking on what’s now Vogelaar Park once the city completes its land swap with the school district.
However, that only helps with commuters coming from the south and trying to get to points north of the Colorado River, he said. The real need is to find park-and-ride options in West Glenwood for those coming from points west, he and others said.
Some private property owners on that end, including the Glenwood Springs Mall, have been unwilling to allow for temporary public parking, city officials said.
City Transportation Manager Tanya Allen said the city is working to encourage bike commuting within Glenwood, including completion of the new West Midland trail link and painting dedicated bike lanes on some of the major thoroughfares.
Mark Gould of Gould Construction, which has been one of the main subcontractors on the Grand Avenue bridge project, said the peak traffic volumes are likely underestimated. Especially with major construction projects upvalley starting up next spring, including the Sky Hotel and Limelight Lodge, the level of traffic is likely in increase even more come next summer, he said.
“That increase is not baked into your numbers,” Gould said, adding those workers will most likely be residing west of Glenwood Springs and commuting up valley every day.
Gamba said there has been some talk among upvalley governments about setting up temporary worker RV camps during the detour period in order to cut down on mid-week commuting.
Project officials are waiting for RFTA to set its bus frequency schedule during the detour period to help with the traffic-reduction planning. Additional employer meetings are being planned in other Roaring Fork Valley towns, and again in Glenwood Springs after the first of the year.
Wanatowicz said a public education campaign about how to change travel patterns and help reduce traffic during the detour will be launched in March next year, when the new pedestrian bridge that is now under construction is scheduled to be completed.
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