Officials: Roadwork near Harvey Gap is OK |

Officials: Roadwork near Harvey Gap is OK

Ryan Hoffman

With a repaving project on Grass Valley Road expected to last several more weeks, county and emergency officials are giving reassurance that the construction, for the time being, does not pose a safety issue in light of the ongoing closure of Harvey Gap Road.

The repaving project, which was budgeted and scheduled for the 2016 construction season, started earlier this month, much to the surprise of some area residents already concerned about the impact on emergency response time given the closure of Harvey Gap Road.

Harvey Gap Road was closed after a partial collapse Aug. 21.

The decision to move forward with repaving Grass Valley Road, which for now is the only access to Harvey Gap Road north of the closure, amid existing concerns about emergency access is frustrating, said Eileen Cummings, one of the residents who previously voiced concerns about access by emergency services.

“They said, ‘That’s been on the books.’ Shouldn’t they have waited?” Cummings said of the repaving project after speaking at a county commissioner meeting this past week.

During a back and forth with the commissioners that was tense at times, Cummings inquired why the repaving project was not postponed and why some of the commissioners were unaware of the project.

Commissioner John Martin, whose district includes the area around Harvey Gap, on Wednesday repeated points made at the meeting, including the fact that Grass Valley Road remains open during construction.

“That is a schedule of road and bridge. We don’t control their schedule, we fund their projects,” he said.

Asked if the commissioners should be more involved in questionable scheduling matters, Martin said: “Was it questionable? I don’t know.”

Commissioner Mike Samson interjected that the commissioners are concerned and emergency services personnel have said they are still able to access the area, both on Grass Valley Road and through the damaged Harvey Gap Road, if needed.

“We asked … the fire chief and the county sheriff and we said, ‘Guys … is there a problem here, can you do your job if you need to?’ And they both said ‘yes,’” Samson said Wednesday.

At this point the repaving project would not adversely impact emergency services trying to reach the north side of the Harvey Gap Road closure, said Rob Jones, Colorado River Fire Rescue chief.

That is because CRFR’s primary response for the area is coming from the New Castle fire station, with Rifle acting as a secondary response.

The Grass Valley Road repaving — a $1.1 million project that includes milling and an asphalt overlay for 7.5 miles of road, according to Deb Fiscus, the county’s road and bridge director — is being done in two parts.

The first, which is underway and expected to be completed this coming week, stretches from Colorado 325 (the road that runs alongside Rifle Gap State Park) to the north end of Harvey Gap Road.

The second stretch, which will start after the first one is complete, continues for about 3 miles on Grass Valley Road from Harvey Gap Road toward New Castle.

Jones, who said he was under the impression the project was more on the Rifle side of Grass Valley Road than the New Castle side, did not think the second part of the repaving project would hamper emergency services, but he admitted to some uncertainty.

“At this point I will say it won’t affect us, but we will find out exactly how that looks once they get over (to the second part of the project),” he said.

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said the repaving project does not change response operations for deputies.

“If the sheriff’s office needs to get some place we’ll get there,” he said while repeating a previous point about the “fluid” nature of deputies, as opposed to fixed operations such as fire or emergency medical services.

Although there could be minimal delays, access through the work zone will be maintained the duration of the project and the contractor is working one lane at a time, Fiscus said.

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