School start throws new wrench in bridge detour
The first day of school Tuesday for Roaring Fork Schools signaled the return of longer backups onto eastbound Interstate 70 coming into the Glenwood Springs bridge detour.
Traffic snarls at the Exit 114 roundabouts, partly related to parents dropping students at the nearby Glenwood Springs Middle School, seemed to be the culprit.
“We guessed that would probably be the case with that middle school traffic,” said Tom Newland, Grand Avenue Bridge project spokesman. “We had to meter more of those folks into the queue, which slowed things down coming off the interstate.”
Otherwise, there seemed to be few problem areas along the detour route associated with the start of school, he said.
The Glenwood Springs High School parking lot seemed to have fewer cars, as more students were apparently riding bikes, walking to school or taking the bus.
The 27th Street roundabout, which has notoriously been a trouble spot during the morning school rush with parents going to and from Sopris Elementary School, was not as backed up either, Newland observed.
That’s likely due to the fact that there are 200 fewer students going to Sopris this year, with the opening of the new Riverview School south of Glenwood Springs.
By all accounts, the school district’s busing strategy came off without a hitch. It included a plan to walk students across the Colorado River to and from Two Rivers Park between bus stops.
“Everything seemed to go well with our bus routes, and especially the walking bus was success,” said Jared Rains, transportation director for the district.
“We had a few of the usual first-day hiccups, and had to turn some buses around to pick up kids that missed the bus,” he said. “But we got everyone to school on time.”
He added that the afternoon return home for the kids taking the bus was expected to be a little more complicated. Overall, buses were full and there seemed to be more students taking the bus than on a typical first day of school, Rains said.
Glenwood Springs Middle School Principal Joel Hathaway said more of his school’s students were riding bikes than normal.
“We counted 56 bikes this morning, and some of the kids had to lock them on fences,” he said, adding that more bike racks are due to arrive any day at his and other Glenwood schools.
He said the middle school is being flexible during the three-month detour period in counting students who arrive late as tardy.
To help encourage more work commuters to take the free RFTA buses from western Garfield County, the transit agency has added more parking near the New Castle City Market store.
“We do know the parking that is available has been filling up,” Newland said.
As for the ongoing bridge construction, all of the pier construction is done and the last of the girders was set over the Colorado River on Monday night and into the day Tuesday, he said.
“We are looking to reopen the river to recreation use on Wednesday,” Newland said, as work shifts to placing the final girders over Seventh Street to complete the span for the new bridge.
The river will remain open until work starts to build the deck of the bridge. That will be later this month, he said.
Crews did have to repour some of the sidewalk access to businesses in the 700 block of Grand after drainage problems were discovered, Newland added. That work was expected to be finished this week.
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Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Rob Stein announced his resignation Friday, effective at the end of the school year, saying he will take “a personal sabbatical” next year.