No big problems on day 1 of 8th Street bridge closure
Day one of the 10-day Eighth Street bridge closure was free of major problems, but more will need to be done to inform motorists approaching the east side of the bridge of the closure.
A steady diet of vehicles driving up Seventh Street toward the bridge Saturday highlighted that need. Throughout the day motorists were forced to turn around once they neared the closure.
“We can improve the signage,” Nick Anderson, project engineer with the Grand Avenue bridge project, stated Saturday morning.
The bridge, which stretches across the Roaring Fork River and serves as the most direct route from Midland Avenue to downtown Glenwood Springs, is expected to be closed to vehicle traffic until Oct. 18 in order to replace the deck and make other repairs.
The improvements are necessary for the eventual Eighth Street connection, which will provide a straight line of travel from east Eighth Street and serve as part of the Grand Avenue/Colorado 82 detour when the Grand Avenue bridge is closed for three months starting in August 2017.
While there were no notable issues in the morning and early afternoon Saturday, there were a good number of cars that were forced to turn around after traveling down Seventh Street, Anderson said.
Traffic on that side of the bridge will remain open just beyond the railroad bridge so motorists can continue to access businesses, such as Farnum Holt Funeral Home, in that area.
“You can still get everywhere, it just depends on what direction you’re coming from,” Anderson said, noting that pedestrian access remains open across the bridge.
Many of the vehicles Saturday morning drove up Seventh Street to the construction site and were forced to turn around in the funeral home parking lot.
While that area makes for a convenient turnaround, project officials may have to find a way to better alert motorists of the closure to hopefully deter them from traveling down Seventh Street, Anderson said.
During a 30-minute period starting at 11 a.m. Saturday, the Post Independent observed a total of 37 vehicles that traveled down Seventh Street and had to turn around.
Of those 37 vehicles, 13 pulled directly into the Seventh Street parking lot near the old sewer plant and turned around. The other 24 drove past the parking lot and in some instances reversed back into the parking lot entrance to turn around. Others drove farther up the road past the railroad bridge and reversed course in the funeral home parking lot. One motorist was seen throwing his hands up in the air as four cars were briefly backed up just beyond the Seventh Street parking lot.
Officers with the Glenwood Springs Police Department observed similar issues, said Chief Terry Wilson.
“The only thing my guys saw is there are a lot of people who don’t understand the words ‘road’ and ‘closed,’” Wilson said, adding one sergeant reported seeing about 500 vehicles pass signs stating the road was closed ahead.
On the other side of the bridge — the one nearest Midland Avenue — traffic control prevented motorists from turning onto west Eighth Street from Midland. Aside from a few motorists attempting to turn left from Midland onto Eighth, traffic appeared to flow relatively smoothly Saturday afternoon.
Despite some of the confusion, none of the motorists early Saturday expressed any anger — they simply wanted to know the best way around the closure, Anderson said.
Motorists looking to access downtown Glenwood from the west will have to use Interstate 70 to Exit 116, the main Glenwood exit, or U.S. 6 and Sixth Street.
Those traveling to and from points along Midland Avenue, such as Glenwood Meadows, also must travel through west Glenwood to I-70 or U.S. 6, or take 27th Street to Midland Avenue if coming from the south.
Informing motorists of the closure will be increasingly important Monday when more people hit the roads to travel to and from work. Wilson said he suspects project officials will tweak their approach for notifying motorists, and added that officers will be out monitoring the situation Monday morning.
“I’m sure they’ll give it a good look, and we’ll be out there Monday morning under a fuller traffic load.”