Glenwood merchants seek festive feel amid new bridge work
Downtown Glenwood Springs merchants are inclined to make the most of the situation as work on the Grand Avenue bridge moves within a few feet of their storefronts through the holidays and over the winter months.
Several business owners affected by the latest stage of bridge construction met with project officials Tuesday morning to discuss concerns as work begins on the structural walls for the new bridge in the 700 block of Grand.
Chief among them is to ensure that access to stores and restaurants located along the wing street walkways is maintained during the busy holiday shopping season and into the spring and summer.
Project officials emphasized at the merchants meeting that the work now being done will not limit access as much as the utility work that was done in that area last spring. That required a trench to be dug directly in front of stores, while a 6- to 8-foot walkway next to stores will be maintained during the current work.
Work began this week to erect safety barriers on the east and west sides of Grand Avenue as it approaches Eighth Street to allow for a work zone to build the nearly 200-foot-long wall sections that will be part of the support structure for the new bridge.
The work zone will entail a concrete barrier and plywood splash guards with a chain-link safety fence separating storefronts from the work area where the new concrete bridge walls will be poured.
The walls will also provide a surface for the aesthetic brick facade that is part of the bridge design. However, the brick work will not be done until the weather warms again in the spring, project officials said.
To get into the spirit of the holidays, shop owners also want to put up some lighting on the work zone safety fencing to create a festive atmosphere.
“We have been trying to get some more light on those wing streets anyway so they are more inviting,” said Leslie Bethel, executive director for the Downtown Development Authority. “If we do it well, it can stay up the whole time the fence is there, and it can be inviting and festive.”
First and foremost as winter weather sets in, bridge project and city officials want to make sure the wing street area stays clear of snow.
“People have to be careful with putting things in that [wing street] area, because it will impact how we’re able to remove snow,” said Gaylen Stewart, construction manager for the bridge joint venture general contractor of Granite-Wadsworth.
“The less stuff we have out there will help us get the snow out of the way,” he said.
Timely snow removal in the downtown area in general, including the parking lanes in the 800 and 900 blocks of Grand, will be a high priority for the city this winter as well, Glenwood Springs City Manager Debra Figueroa said.
In addition to the work zone barriers in the 700 block, the left-turn lane from southbound Grand onto Eighth Street will be closed to allow adequate work space.
The turn lane was expected to be closed today, requiring motorists to continue on to Ninth Street to access areas east of Grand Avenue. Project officials said the turn signal timing at Ninth will be extended by an extra four or five seconds.
Construction crews will take a break during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, starting Dec. 22 until Jan. 2, Stewart said.
Project public information manager Kathleen Wanatowicz said the work on the structural walls was to have started earlier this fall, but has been delayed and now must begin in order to stay on schedule.
“If we could have pushed it back to January, we would have,” she said in response to questions about waiting to begin the work until after the holidays. “We just didn’t have that option.”
Stewart added that it’s critical to get as much work done ahead of the planned 95-day bridge detour that is set to start Aug. 14, 2017, as possible, so that the final segment of the bridge can be built on schedule.
“The more we can get done now, the better success we will have completing things during the detour,” he said.
Stewart said the support wall work could have been done in a shorter amount of time, but that would have required closing access to businesses in the 700 block.
“We had to maintain that access for everyone’s livelihood,” Stewart said.
The work will be done in four phases, starting on the south end of the wall and working to the north, he explained. Phase four of the work will start in March after the new pedestrian bridge opens. At that time, the old section of the pedestrian bridge ramp and the temporary walkway across the highway bridge will be removed.
Motorists should anticipate one-lane closures on the bridge while the support wall work is being done. Two lanes of traffic will be kept open, southbound during the morning commuter times and northbound during the evening peak times.
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