Gridlock rules detour’s second afternoon
Top tips for day 3
• Carpooling to and from work and even sharing rides to the grocery store or other destinations can save traffic headaches. Tuesday morning, an estimated five out of every six vehicles had just one occupant.
• During the morning rush, merge into the right lane on I-70 eastbound as soon as you see the end of the line. The left lane is reserved for through traffic, emergency vehicles, buses and those headed to Exit 116 to access north Glenwood.
• If buses are full coming from western Garfield County, standby ones will be sent to transport riders.
• Realize you are not special and respect that everyone has places they need to be. Cutting ahead and cheating the detour will just cheat everyone.
Despite efforts to keep the evening rush of traffic along the Grand Avenue bridge detour through Glenwood Springs moving at key points Tuesday, gridlock still ruled the day.
The late-day traffic jam did take a little longer to develop than it did Monday, the first day of the anticipated 95-day detour while the old bridge is being torn down and the final segment of the new bridge is constructed.
“It didn’t get nearly as jammed up between 3:30 and 5 as it did yesterday, but then it hit us hard at 5 and it’s looking like another long night,” Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson said at about 7 p.m.
At that point, traffic was backed up south of Glenwood on Colorado 82 a good 5 miles to the Ironbridge turnoff on Garfield County Road 154.
Traffic along the designated Grand Avenue detour route was moving, but at a crawl.
Midland Avenue, which officials are trying to discourage as an alternative route through town, proved to be a problem again. Traffic was bumper-to-bumper there and was moving even more slowly than the designated detour, Wilson said.
“It’s solid cars from Eighth Street back to 27th and Highway 82, and they are not moving,” he said. The traffic signal at Eighth and Midland heavily favors the detour traffic, with only about four or five cars from the south being allowed to pass through each light cycle.
One culprit for some people trying to take Midland, based on a quick poll of those idling along around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, is that GPS-based navigation systems often suggest it as an alternate route through town.
“If people don’t read signs and don’t read the newspaper instead of staring at their screens … I can’t do a darn thing for them,” Wilson said.
The morning commute also didn’t improve Tuesday for those coming into and through Glenwood from western Garfield County.
Traffic was backed up on Interstate 70 west of the Exit 114 access to the detour route well beyond the Canyon Creek interchange at times, with reported 2-hour commutes from New Castle through Glenwood Springs headed toward Aspen, even as late as 10:30 a.m.
Once in Glenwood, though, the detour route from the 114 roundabout along Midland Avenue to Eighth Street and back onto Grand was flowing smoothly, project officials said.
Also on the plus side, emergency officials did get through the second day of the detour without any major medical or police emergencies, Wilson said.
During the evening rush, a particular problem area affecting traffic flow is the Exit 114 roundabouts, he said.
There, police officers and traffic control attempted to use “aggressive metering” to move detour traffic through in big chunks, and also allow side traffic that was coming into the roundabouts from other directions to clear.
“Even in the evening, the eastbound off-ramp fills up all the way to the top and back onto the interstate in seven to 10 minutes, so we have to get that traffic through also,” he said.
“It end up being more or a less a coin toss,” Wilson said.
Meanwhile, he said police officers are out in force and issuing tickets for various violations, but they can’t always catch people in the act.
Tickets are being issued for anyone using the right lane on Grand Avenue north of 27th Street to try to cut into the traffic line farther ahead. In the morning, a lot of tickets are also being written for people attempting to make a left turn from Devereux Road near the whitewater park onto the Midland detour.
As was the case Monday, the free RFTA buses heading into Glenwood Springs from western Garfield County appeared to be full, and a lot of people were biking or walking to destinations within Glenwood Springs.
A continued problem is the large number of single-occupant vehicles clogging things up in the mornings and evenings, Wilson said.
“Of all the people I passed again who were backed up on Midland, 95 percent are one person, one car,” he said. “They’re making the choice to have a two-hour commute by not changing their habits.”
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