Rifle sees changes with Grand Avenue bridge out
The Grand Avenue bridge officially closed at 12:01 a.m. last Monday, and western Garfield County workers, businesses and residents have already started to adjust and in some cases thrive with the gateway to Glenwood Springs sealed shut till mid-November.
Brickhouse Pizzeria Manager Ashley Harkins sees it as an opportunity for the restaurant to draw more business, because she thinks more people will visit Rifle.
“We are planning on it being busy,” she said. “For commuters who would normally stop in Glenwood, it’s harder to park downtown, and options are limited with the closure.”
Staff at the Rifle Branch Library have already seen changes in visitor patterns with a definite uptick in the number of people using meeting and study rooms for group meetings.
Rifle Branch Manager Stephanie Freas said that the library accommodates any business looking for meeting space.
She added that the meeting rooms have been reserved all day since Monday.
With the bridge closed and public transportation likely to increase, the library has started to revamp its Book Stops program around the county. Under that program, Garfield County bus riders can grab library books at four bus stops: the Rifle Park and Ride, the Main Street stop in New Castle, the 27th Street station in Glenwood Springs, and the Carbondale Park and Ride.
Volunteers and staff keep these book stops stocked with gently used, donated books that they hope will provide some entertainment to those who will now be taking the bus in the mornings and evenings.
All books at the stops are free for anyone to take, the Garfield County Library District website says.
Freas explained that the library will look to restock the book stops much more frequently with the bridge down and bus ridership likely to increase these next few months. He goal is to fill it up once a week from now on.
“We want to amp it up with the closure, that way people will have something to read during long waits,” she added.
Susie Amichaux, nurse with Garfield County Public Health, worked four days a week in Rifle before the bridge closure and though she lives in West Glenwood, takes public transit to her office every morning.
She said that the only real difference between her commute in the morning now is that she has to get up a little bit earlier to make sure she doesn’t miss her bus in the morning.
The Garfield Public Health department is one of several to have adjusted staff during the closure.
Garfield County public information officer Renelle Lott said that the county has been working to provide outreach services and has expanded departments for Rifle residents to provide staff out there to offset bridge impacts.
She added that 18 additional people who live west of Glenwood (and were previously working in Glenwood) now work in the Garfield County Administration Building off of Railroad Avenue part or full-time.
For Department of Human Services staff, the county’s largest staffed department, 112 total full-time employees who live on the Rifle side are working in Rifle, while Glenwood residents who live south of the bridge are working in Glenwood Springs, according to Lott. DHS staff is using teleconference capabilities as much as possible.
“One of our child welfare vehicles will be parked in Glenwood Springs full time for use of the caseworker who lives there, to be able to respond to emergencies and appear in court,” Lott said. “DHS has a subcommittee that created posters and has been communicating with clients about using the phone and internet, instead of coming to the offices as much as possible.”
“There have been a lot of thoughtful adjustments and planning by all of our affected departments,” she added.
For the finance department, the staff always had one person in Rifle and everyone else in Glenwood Springs, but since everyone in the department lives west of West Glenwood, the staff simply flip-flopped with one person now in Glenwood Springs and the rest in Rifle.
“We have a little bit of everything; the goal was to have representation in this area,” said Jenny Langhorst, payroll manager for Garfield County Finance.
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