Glenwood Springs braces for traffic snarls during 8th St. bridge closure
Glenwood Springs is bracing for a potential perfect traffic congestion storm when a major bridge link from Midland Avenue across the Roaring Fork River into downtown closes for 10 days starting Saturday.
At the same time, a construction delivery and installation related to a city pedestrian path and bridge project at the north end of Midland Avenue will also be taking place late next week, causing additional traffic disruptions including an overnight street closure on Oct. 13-14.
Through it all, motorists are advised to be prepared for detours and to think about the timing of trips to avoid peak traffic times, or to consider transit alternatives.
School bus routes will also be impacted during the 10-day stretch, and parents dropping off and picking up students at Glenwood Springs Elementary School will need to plan accordingly.
The 10-day closure of the Eighth Street bridge starts Saturday and will continue until Oct. 18 while the Colorado Department of Transportation replaces the bridge deck and continues work on the new straight-shot connection into downtown. The new street will serve as part of the Colorado 82/Grand Avenue detour route next August when the Grand Avenue bridge closes for three months to make way for the final segment of the new highway bridge.
In the meantime, the upcoming Eighth Street bridge closure should provide a glimpse into some of the traffic challenges that will come up during the longer term Grand Avenue bridge closure and detour next year.
“We will have traffic control out in force, and Granite-Wadsworth (the joint venture general contractor on the bridge project) will have their supervisors out looking for anything that needs to be addressed,” Tom Newland, public information manager for the bridge project, said.
During the upcoming Eighth Street bridge and Seventh Street closures, motorists originating from points along Midland Avenue who want to access downtown will have two options.
They can go through west Glenwood and onto Interstate 70 to the main Glenwood Exit 116, or take U.S. 6 and Sixth Street into the main part of town. Or, they can take Midland south to 27th Street and then north back onto Grand Avenue.
The former option is certainly the preferred route during the peak morning and evening commuter and school drop-off and pickup times, rather than taking Midland to 27th Street, Police Chief Terry Wilson said.
That route tends to back up already during the peak morning hours with traffic coming from Sopris Elementary School and the south Glenwood neighborhoods.
To ease traffic flow, the city this week began restriping the intersection of 27th and South Glen/82 to provide two dedicated left-turn lanes headed downtown.
The weekend bridge closure will give locals a chance to get used to the re-routing, but the big concern will be Monday morning when upvalley commuters are traveling through town, Wilson said.
“If people don’t stay on I-70 and take the main downtown exit, they’re liable to run into a big mess,” he said. “We are definitely going to have to take a look at how to set up traffic controls and confer with CDOT to see how things are working out.”
A big challenge, Wilson said, will be to make sure no large semi-trucks make their way up Midland from west Glenwood.
“If they get that deep in, there’s no place for them to turn around,” he said.
Message signs on eastbound I-70 coming into Glenwood will advise motorists to stay on the interstate to Exit 116.
During the bridge closure access to Eighth Street businesses will be maintained, while Cowdin Drive residents west of the bridge will have access from Midland. Pedestrian access across the bridge also will be maintained.
Seventh Street will be closed to through traffic but will remain open up to just beyond the railroad overpass, including access to the public parking lot near the old sewer plant.
Midland Avenue traffic flow will also change during the 10-day bridge closure. CDOT crews will remove the northbound Midland Avenue traffic signal, and switch the southbound Midland Avenue and westbound Eighth Street traffic signals to a flash.
“These changes will require motorists turning onto Eighth Street to wait for a break in traffic,” Newland said, adding traffic control will assist in the area.
In addition, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus stops on Seventh Street will not be in operation during the closure. Riders should use the stop at Ninth and Grand instead.
Roaring Fork School District bus route changes and adjustments to the bus and parent pickup and drop-off areas at GSES will also be necessary during the bridge closure.
According to a press release from the school district, school buses cross the bridge 24 times a day.
Jared Rains, transportation director for the district, has also been working with the city and CDOT to minimize the disruption to students’ pick-up schedule.
The city has agreed to prohibit parking on the west side of School Street starting this Thursday through Oct. 19 in order to allow that side of the street to serve as a bus stop zone.
“This timeframe allows for one practice day before the bridge closes, as well as a cushion day at the end of the construction,” Rains said.
• The school bus stop at Eighth and Cowdin will move to 10th and Midland in order to avoid the construction in the vicinity of Cowdin. School Resource Officer Chris Dietrich and volunteers will assist in escorting students to and from their new stop via the Veltus Park pedestrian path.
• In the morning, bus drivers and Glenwood Springs High School staff will conduct several student transfers from one bus to another. These transfers will occur at the high school.
• Sopris Elementary School will serve as a transfer station in the afternoon for several busloads of Glenwood Middle School students that live in south Glenwood, in order to reduce the amount of buses sent to the middle school.
• Sack breakfasts will be served to any GSES students arriving late to school.
Midland ped bridge work
Meanwhile, the city will be closing Midland Avenue from Wulfsohn Road to Devereux Road from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Oct. 13 for delivery and placement of a new pedestrian bridge that is unrelated to the Grand Avenue bridge project.
City Engineer Terri Partch admitted the timing of the bridge delivery in conjunction with the Eighth Street bridge closure was awkward.
“But we don’t really have a lot of control over the date once the project is set, and it is very expensive to store the bridge at the manufacturer’s [yard].
“We are working closely with Grand Avenue bridge project officials to minimize impacts,” she said.
A partial closure of Midland between Wulfsohn and Devereux will occur at 6 p.m. Oct. 13 after the evening rush.
“We will fully close the road at 8 p.m. for the bridge set, and we’ll be out of there well before the morning rush hour on the 14th,” Partch said.
Also, to help ease things at the 27th Street/82 intersection, the signal timing will be altered to allow more side traffic to pass through, she said.
The adjusted signal timing and dual left-turn lanes will remain in place at least through the Grand Avenue bridge detour, and possibly could be permanent, Partch said.
“We are already placing traffic counters on key streets to assess volume and speed,” she said of additional control measures. “We will continue to monitor during and after the closure.”
Chief Wilson advised people to be patient through this initial traffic test.
“Be calm, take your turn, and if not you’re going to get a ticket,” he said. “Everyone’s in same boat, we’re just going to have to bear it.”
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Roaring Fork Schools volunteers who have already completed a comparable background check through an approved entity would be good to go.