Traffic increases; bridge plan more challenging |

Traffic increases; bridge plan more challenging

Pedestrians crossing Grand Avenue at Eighth Street during the busy rush hour traffic.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

If it seems like traffic is worse this summer around Glenwood Springs, especially on Grand Avenue, that’s because it is.

Daily traffic on Colorado 82 through Glenwood in June was approximately 28,000 vehicles per day, an increase of 12 percent, or about 3,000 vehicles over average, according to the latest Colorado Department of Transportation counts.

Though weekly traffic growth on 82 was only about 1 percent over last June, peak morning traffic, between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m., was up an additional 300 vehicles, or 4 percent.

Thursday and Friday daily traffic alone was up about 2 percent, or approximately 700 additional vehicles than Glenwood Springs experienced in June 2015.

There’s no reason to believe those numbers didn’t hold steady through July and into August, CDOT and Grand Avenue bridge construction project officials indicated during a Glenwood Transportation and Mobility (TAM) stakeholder group meeting Thursday.

The extra traffic this summer has been extra challenging as motorists have had to deal with delays and occasional lane and full street closures related to the bridge construction, said Kathleen Wanatowicz, public information manager for the bridge project.

It’s also concerning as project officials work to try to reduce traffic volumes by 20 percent based on 2014 numbers before the scheduled 95-day bridge detour that is to be in place starting in mid-August of next year.

“We’re eight months into a 30-month project, and have approximately 365 days until the bridge detour, so this information is timely,” Wanatowicz advised the gathering of area transportation providers, local government and school district officials and employers.

“The summer traffic has been challenging, but we are making progress on the bridge,” she said.

The quarterly TAM meeting was used to gauge those who are experiencing firsthand the various impacts associated with the bridge construction on their insights, suggested improvements and any other ideas they might have to make things better.

Several of those who attended pinpointed some problem intersections within the construction zone where congestion seems to be worse.

A major pedestrian safety concern is at the corner of westbound Eighth Street and Grand, where motorists are trying to turn right to go over the bridge against pedestrians attempting to cross Grand. The situation can be particularly bad during the peak evening periods when traffic backs up, and it can take several cycles of the traffic signal to make a right-hand turn.

One suggestion was for CDOT to implement a dedicated walk light for pedestrians before the traffic light turns green, in order to allow people enough time to cross before vehicles take their turn.

Another key problem area is the intersection of Sixth and Laurel streets, where several people said the traffic light to cross or turn left onto Sixth is too short, resulting in long backups and frustrated drivers. That area also has high pedestrian traffic, especially during the summer tourist season.

A similar backup results at Sixth and Pine, where a left turn is currently prohibited due to the construction. One suggestion was to implement manned traffic control at those intersections.

Other suggestions to help improve traffic movement related to areas outside the main bridge construction zone, including the roundabouts at Interstate 70 Exit 114 in West Glenwood, which has also been under construction to accommodate the eventual Colorado 82 detour route.

So far, the increase in traffic has not resulted in a corresponding increase in ridership on the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus system, RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship said.

That’s one thing that will have to change in advance of the detour period when it will be critical that people modify their travel patterns and work/errand schedules, and use other means to get around town and through town from August to December 2017, he and others at the Thursday meeting said.

The detour route will take eastbound 82 traffic off I-70 at Exit 114 and run it along Midland Avenue to the planned new Eighth Street connection at the Roaring Fork River bridge into downtown, and back onto Grand via Colorado and Ninth. Westbound traffic will turn onto the detour route at Eighth.

During that time, RFTA will be operating the Grand Hogback route for free, and will also be extending that service to Parachute in order to encourage more commuters to hop on the bus.

Three different free shuttle routes will also be in operation around the bridge construction zone during the detour, and the city is considering modifications to the Ride Glenwood service.

Other suggestions would involve closing Midland from 8th to 27th streets to all but local traffic in an attempt to keep highway traffic on the detour route, and possibly making Wulfsohn Drive behind the Glenwood Meadows shopping center a dedicated transit, carpool and high occupancy vehicle “shortcut” during peak traffic times.

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