RFSD suggests fix at 154 Road intersection
Construction of a new school near a dangerous intersection on the Rio Grande Trail south of Glenwood Springs could someday lead to a traffic fix that would address not only the current situation, but better accommodate future growth in the area.
A concept being put forth by the Roaring Fork School District involves a “fly-over” road structure that would pass over the trail from a realigned intersection at Colorado 82 and Garfield County Road 154, moving the county road to other side of the trail.
In addition, the upper bench of the district property where the new pre-kindergarten-through-eighth-grade Riverview School is being built could be used to provide a new access road to the Orrison Distributing warehouse property. That, in turn, would do away with the two highway access points now serving Orrison, according to the plan.
The concept is very much in the early stages, and no cost estimates have been determined. Moving it forward would also require a collective effort on the part of multiple entities, including the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which manages the trail, plus the Colorado Department of Transportation and Garfield County.
The Roaring Fork school board last week authorized a letter to be sent to RFTA offering to do the school district’s part by donating part of its land to accommodate the project.
While construction of the new, approximately 350-student school itself and related traffic estimates did not trigger intersection improvements, the potential for future development of the area, including a possible second school someday, will likely make those improvements necessary, according to the district’s letter to RFTA’s board of directors.
“We believe it will be critical to improve the functionality of this intersection, CR 154 and the Rio Grande Trail crossing to promote safe vehicle, bike and pedestrian access in this area,” the district’s letter states.
Sopris Engineering, which is one of the district’s contractors on the Riverview project, came up with the fly-over concept. The district also worked with FedEx, which recently built its new package distribution center near the intersection, to realign its building in a way to accommodate the new roadway.
Currently, the county road follows the old Colorado 82 alignment, exiting the highway from a controlled intersection at about a 20-degree angle. The road crosses the Rio Grande Trail at an equally acute angle before reaching the entrance to the new FedEx facility and the new school, which is slated to open in September.
“We feel this is something that can collectively benefit a lot of different entities,” said Jeff Gatlin, chief operating officer for Roaring Fork Schools.
“RFTA gets rid of a dangerous trail crossing, the situation where you have big trucks pulling in and out of Orrison onto 82 gets remedied, and it provides a safer access to the school,” he said.
The steep hillside coming from the highway intersection also allows for a grade-separated crossing over the Rio Grande, which should satisfy RFTA’s need to preserve the inactive rail-to-trail corridor under its legal railbanking status, Gatlin said.
“The school district may not have funds to contribute, but we do have land to help make this happen,” he said, explaining that the bond issue funds being used to build the new, $34 million school could not be used for off-site access improvements.
The RFTA board is likely to address the idea at an upcoming meeting, and conversations would have to take place with CDOT and Garfield County commissioners as well.
Long term, the school district is also looking at other ways to improve pedestrian and bicycle access to the new school, including looking at trail connections to the nearby Ironbridge and Westbank neighborhoods, Gatlin said.
“The school district is committed to provide busing for all students who will be coming to the new school, but we do want to keep those kinds of conversations open,” he said.
Next steps if RFTA and the other entities are open to the intersection improvements would be to do additional design work to develop a cost estimate, explore funding sources and further evaluate the feasibility of the project, according to the school district’s letter.
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The Glenwood Springs City Council voted to extend the existing face covering mandate for indoor public-facing spaces within city limits during Thursday night’s meeting.