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Things are heating up beneath Glenwood Springs’ steepest intersection

City crews replace electric-grid heating system with modern tubing alternative

Standing on Cedar Crest Drive, Glenwood Springs Public Works Director Matt Langhorst talks heating the city's steepest intersections. Ike Fredregill
Post Independent

The Cedar Crest Drive and Donegan Avenue intersection is steep.

One of Glenwood Springs’ steepest, in fact, making it a significant winter hazard for drivers, Glenwood Springs Public Works Director Matt Langhorst said.

Managing traffic safety comes in many forms — speed limits, signage, traffic-slowing design elements — but for Cedar Crest, Langhorst said the city needed to go the extra mile: Heat the street.



“Heated intersections are incredibly expensive,” he explained. “But in some cases, they are the best tool for the job.”

Of the city’s three heated intersections — Cedar Crest and Donegan, West 10th Street and Midland Avenue, West 13th Street and Midland Avenue — Cedar Crest alone functions consistently as designed, Langhorst said.



Whereas 13th and 10th streets have electric-grid heating systems, the city installed a new heating system, which pushes a heated glycol mixture through flexible, plastic tubing, in Cedar Crest while rebuilding the subdivision’s roadway infrastructure in 2020.

A copper sensor on Cedar Crest Drive detects snow on the road, switching on an embedded heating system to keep the intersection with Donegan Road safer during winter conditions. Ike Fredregill
Post Independent

Flexible tubing, sometimes referred to by the brand name PEX, can last up to 50 years with minor, but accessible maintenance options, said Jake Velaquez, Glenwood Springs’ Streets Department superintendent.

“The problem with the electric-grid systems is they last about 5-10 years and they can’t be repaired without replacing the entire intersection,” Velaquez said.

Both options must be installed in concrete, because asphalt does not conduct or hold heat efficiently. Furthermore, Velaquez said asphalt is laid when the mixture’s temperature is about 350 degrees, which would melt PEX tubing.

Concrete, on the other hand, conducts and holds heat well.

With a price tag of about $200,000, Cedar Crest’s new heating system includes about 2,200 feet of tubing embedded in the concrete and a roadside shack to house a boiler and above-ground valve access points, which allow city workers to test and adjust the glycol mixture as well as shut the system down when repairs are needed.

A copper sensor at the north end of the intersection detects temperature and moisture, kicking the heat on when predetermined conditions are met, Langhorst explained.

Plans to replace the 10th Street heating grid are in the works, but the project would likely move forward until 2023 at the earliest, he said.

“As for 13th Street, it still works — kind of, sometimes — so, we’ll probably wait until it fails completely,” Langhorst said.

Velaquez added the 13th Street intersection receives more sunlight than either 10th Street or Cedar Crest, preventing some ice build up.

Back on Cedar Crest, Langhorst said the neighbors are happy with the upgrade — probably.

“When it’s working as intended, no one says anything,” he said. “And it’s been pretty quiet lately.”

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at ifredregill@postindependent.com.


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