Editorial: It’s time for locals to boost merchants — and mull traffic | PostIndependent.com

Editorial: It’s time for locals to boost merchants — and mull traffic

Matt Mikowski helps put up lights Friday along the construction barrier fencing in downtown Glenwood Springs. Mutliple agencies came together Friday afternoon to decorate the fencing to help beautify downtown during the latest round of construction as well as provide lighting around the shops downtown. The Glenwood Springs Fire and Police departments along with other city workers and the Downtown Development Authority.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

Lemons, meet Glenwood Springs, where lemonade is on the menu for Christmas and beyond.

As construction of the new Grand Avenue bridge enters its second year, the wing areas alongside the bridge between Seventh and Eighth streets are the site of renewed construction, with open trenches and temporary fencing in place at the moment and months of work ahead. Seventh Street remains closed in front of restaurant row, and traffic patterns are mildly disrupted.

The town weathered pretty well the first year of the largest infrastructure project on the Western Slope in a generation. Sales tax receipts for the year are running at record levels, and fears that tourists would stay away in the summer proved unfounded.

That doesn’t mean that merchants at the epicenter of the project have been without challenges, with their customers dealing with narrowed walkways, noise and dirt. The narrative from the summer is that visitors weren’t much fazed by the work, but locals tended to stay away.

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Now that we’re in the colder months, when our tourism drops off and a new round of downtown disruption is beginning, it’s time for residents and our valley neighbors to step up and support local stores and restaurants.

Work alongside the bridge and in front of several shops couldn’t wait until after the holidays if crews are to meet the mid-August target for closing the existing bridge and completing the new bridge, set for just about a year from now.

The town is rallying to help these businesses through the holiday, with police officers and firefighters on Friday joining an effort to string holiday lights along chain-link fences.

Glen-a-Palooza, an effort begun last summer as a monthly downtown open house of sorts, comes around from 4-7 p.m. this Friday and will feature the annual visit from Santa and his reindeer on the courthouse lawn. That will include hot chocolate and marshmallow roasting — good old-fashioned family fun.

We were thinking about offering Trump supporters a dunk tank featuring their favorite Post Independent publisher/editor, but decided that the water might be frozen, so we’ll skip that.

But in all seriousness, we do urge you to come downtown Friday or at some point before Christmas and do some of your holiday shopping. Have lunch or dinner. Visit more than once, dine more than once. It will help your local small businesses.

While you are on your way to enjoy this cheerful season, take a moment for some serious thought. Starting in mid-August, travel through Glenwood is going to be really difficult after the existing bridge closes and the new one goes through its final three months of construction.

Can you walk downtown? Car pool with co-workers or neighbors? Take the bus?

We ask because it’s important to think about it and do some trial runs before the bridge detour begins next August.

The time to develop a plan for transit during the tangle, when all traffic through town will be routed from Grand to Eighth Street to Midland Avenue to the West Glenwood interchange with Interstate 70, is not when you are sitting in your car alone cursing on Aug. 15.

For example, Kathleen Wanatowicz, bridge project public information manager, has devised her plan for the detour period. She works in an office on the south side of the existing bridge and figures to park in West Glenwood, on the other side, and bike to work from there.

With a great deal of construction and a strong tourism economy in the Roaring Fork Valley, traffic through town increased last summer. If you happen to leave Glenwood to head upvalley between roughly 4 and 6:30 p.m. you’ll see downvalley traffic backed up well beyond the southern city limits — and that’s before the bridge is closed. You don’t want to get caught in that.

So while you are doing merchants a favor, perhaps enjoying a ride downtown with friends for Glen-a-Palooza, do yourself a favor and start talking and thinking about how to help cut down the crush in eight short months.

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