Limited use of electric-assist bicycles on paved Glenwood Springs trails, plus some strategically placed new parking lots to make it easier for people to park their cars and ride the bus, bike or walk the rest of the way into town, are among the ways the city is attempting to help ease the pain during the upcoming Grand Avenue bridge detour.
Altogether, the city is looking at some $387,000 worth of satellite parking lots and pedestrian safety upgrades around town to encourage people to get out of their vehicles as much as possible during the 95-day detour of Colorado 82 traffic onto west Midland Avenue and Eighth Street that will hit Aug. 14 when the existing bridge closes.
The amount of Glenwood tax money involved could be reduced if the city is able to partner with Garfield County and other government entities that will also be affected by the detour, City Manager Debra Figueroa said during a City Council work session last week.
“We are going to be in a state of emergency … granted, it’s a [planned] emergency, but it is an emergency,” Figueroa said of the anticipated traffic impacts that will very likely come during the bridge closure.
In order for the detour to be functional, without extreme backups during the peak morning and evening commute times, state transportation officials figure that normal peak-hour traffic will need to be reduced by about 25 to 35 percent.
For its part, the city is encouraging use of bikes and walking in and around Glenwood as much as possible, as well as use of the free in-city buses and shuttles that will be in place, as a way of reducing traffic volumes.
Allowing electric, or “e-bikes” as they are known, on paved trails is one recommendation that came out of a city task force that has been reviewing policy modifications during the detour period related to trails, sidewalks, bridges, public parking, even pet safety on public trails.
Council members indicated they are willing to formally consider allowing public e-bike use on the Glenwood Springs River Trail (Rio Grande Trail), as well as the new Midland Avenue Trail and the Atkinson Trail from Aug. 1 and into next spring. After that time, the policy will be reviewed, and it’s possible the city could allow e-bikes permanently.
Under the city plan, bicyclists would also be allowed to use the new Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge without having to dismount. Skates and skateboards would continue to be prohibited on the ped bridge.
E-bikes are considered a reasonable provision for people who may have physical disabilities that limit their ability to use a regular pedal-powered bicycle, although there would be no particular restrictions on who can use them on city trails during the trial period.
Rules would, however, allow bikes with only 750-watt or smaller electric motors, and the maximum speed would be 20 mph, which is consistent with the current speed limit for all users on trails within city limits. No gas-powered motors will be allowed on trails.
Motors will have to be disengaged when riding on sidewalks outside the downtown core, and people will still have to dismount and walk their bikes on downtown sidewalks.
Designated dismount zones are currently the 700, 800 and 900 blocks of Grand Avenue, and one block either side of Grand on Eighth and Ninth streets. The city is also considering better signage to mark the dismount zones and other rules.
Motorized devices used by disabled people in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, such as electric wheelchairs and Segways, will continue to be allowed with no restrictions.
To help with trail safety, the city is also proposing a 6-foot leash limit for pets, and is exploring a “trail ambassadors” program to help with policing.
The city is also moving forward with plans to build new parking lots near the city-county government complex along Eighth Street, one behind the YouthZone office on part of what’s now Vogelaar Park that would provide 65 parking spaces, and another on the west side of the former sewer plant that would provide another 43 spaces.
Those areas would be intended to make up for the street parking that will be lost during the detour period along Eighth and Colorado.
Additional satellite parking lots are also being planned on Centennial Street next to the Colorado Department of Transportation offices (129 spaces), and the city continues to work with the Glenwood Springs Mall in West Glenwood to use part of its private parking lot as a park-and-ride option during the detour.
An additional shuttle service serving neighborhoods adjacent to Donegan Road is also in the works, which would give West Glenwood residents another transit option to access the downtown area.
To improve pedestrian safety, lighted stops signs are being proposed for the Midland Avenue crossings at 10th and 13th streets, and on-demand flashing pedestrian crossing lights are proposed for several areas including the Interstate 70 Exit 114 roundabout crossings.
Since funding for the various mitigation projects was not budgeted for this year, the city will most likely delay work on the planned Seventh Street redevelopment until 2018, since that area will continue to be used for bridge construction staging throughout the remainder of this year.
The city is also looking at doing a $13,000 “drone survey” to inspect pavement on some of the side streets that could potentially be impacted by more traffic during the detour. The information could come in handy if the city needs to seek damages from the state once the bridge project is completed.