Rifle, Silt, New Castle see bridge closure as an open door
Those that live west of the Glenwood Springs Grand Avenue bridge may feel their community tighten as of 12:01 a.m. Monday when the bridge detour goes into effect.
While the bridge replacement project is expected to take 95 days to complete, that’s over three months of life without quick and easy access into Glenwood Springs and farther upvalley.
During the bridge closure, traffic headed through Glenwood Springs to Colorado 82 will be diverted onto the Midland Avenue-Eighth Street detour route at Interstate 70 Exit 114 in West Glenwood.
Fortunately, officials with neighboring towns and local agencies have begun planning for the time.
“The bridge closing provides a good chance for people in the region on this side of it,” said Rifle Planning Director Nathan Lindquist. “We’d like to utilize more local restaurants and local activities.”
In the fourth weekend in September, Rifle will host its second Rifle Western Adventure Weekend. A month into the bridge closure, it should provide a real boost to build that into an annual event for the city.
Lindquist said the city made a conscious decision not to push the event in upvalley communities because of the bridge being down. Rather, social media and advertising dollars were spent on the Western Slope and the Grand Junction area to avoid Glenwood Springs traffic.
Rifle’s Western Adventure Weekend running Sept. 23-25 will include a free street concert Saturday night on Sept. 24 featuring “Get the Led Out” from 7-10 p.m., live on stage in downtown Rifle. Both Saturday and Sunday Rifle will host an event that should be a natural fit for the city, a gun show at the Garfield County Fairgrounds. Lindquist said that he “doesn’t remember ever having a gun show in Rifle before,” but believes it could be something that would “attract people throughout the valley.”
Lindquist reassured that, while the city will inevitably be impacted by the Grand Avenue bridge closing, it should provide tourism opportunities not normally available to Rifle and other nearby towns.
In New Castle, Town Administrator Tom Baker said that the town is already seeing shopping patterns change as Glenwood Springs residents, especially those that live on the north side of the river, will likely now head to New Castle for groceries and restaurants.
“It’s such an opportunity in a lot of ways, and we are just sorting through how to take advantage,” he added. “We actually see it as an opportunity to serve Glenwood Springs residents that live on the north side of the river.”
One event the city is considering hosting this fall will combine its biking culture with the bridge closure, though Baker clarified that the talks were still preliminary.
Janet Aluise with community development in Silt said that the town will have a lot going on during the closure, including the third annual Punkin’ Chuckin’ Contest on Oct. 20 and fifth annual Chilli Cook-Off on Nov. 3.
She added that with fewer people able to go into Glenwood, the town hopes to capture some of that traffic.
Adjusting to the new normal
While the closure should bring more events and activities into town, it does not come without its cost for residents of these communities. Western Colorado residents commuting to work will be among those that have to make the biggest adjustments this fall.
Garfield County Chief Communications Officer Renelle Lott explained that in terms of county adjustments, each department is working with its staff to ensure the smoothest possible transition when the bridge comes down.
“A lot of staff has moved to Rifle, everyone in the finance department that lives west of the bridge will work in Rifle,” she said.
Departments will likely share space this fall at the Rifle Administration Office off of Railroad Avenue.
“Each department is making accommodations to work remotely and fit where they live relative to the bridge,” she added. “We are working to provide additional services across the county and move staff to help them depending on which end of the bridge they live on.”
For local police and fire departments, each will look to assist Glenwood Springs agencies whenever needed.
“We’ve talked with GSPD about assisting with traffic direction and will send officers,” said Rifle Chief of Police Tommy Klein. “They will determine once the plan is in place how much help they need from us, and if they need it, we will be there to assist them.”
He added that no Rifle police officers live on the south side of the Glenwood bridge.
Similarly, Colorado River Fire Rescue Chief Rob Jones said that a lot of the planning process that the neighboring agencies have been through is really going to pay off in the end as there has been good coordination and good thought processes throughout.
He said that one area of concern is for New Castle residents who are patients at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.
“We want to know what we can do to help,” Jones added. “There are times they are going to need additional help.”
Garfield County Communications Authority hired a dedicated dispatcher that will have the sole job from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. of monitoring traffic and directing emergency vehicles accordingly.
Grand River Hospital Community Relations Director Annick Pruett said that the hospital has planned as best it can, but the biggest concern is transporting pregnant patients, as Grand River does not have an OBGYN clinic.
“We have had our eye on the ball for quite a few months and feel confident that we can handle anything thrown at us,” she clarified. “But we don’t deliver babies, so do not wait.”
She added that Grand River delivers around half a dozen babies a year in emergency, but hopes that with the bridge closure expecting mothers will plan ahead and not wait.
Chief Nursing Officer Stacy Pemberton said that the hospital has done mock drills with local EMS, CRFR and Valley View to test communications and coordination.
One drill, on June 27, simulated a multi-vehicle accident in South Canyon in which one of the trauma patients was pregnant. The agencies had to determine what would be the best route to take during bridge closure.
“We’ve collaborated with CRFR on ball park figures on how many more patients would be routed here and we anticipate more patients in every department,” she said.
She added that patient flow will be key during the closure, but Grand River will continue to “serve the community as best we can during the closure. We are prepared to up staff as needed.”
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