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Mortals look! Up in the sky! At super eclipse!

Monday’s solar eclipse blocked out all but a sliver of sun in Garfield County, making for a celestial rarity worth witnessing.

Colorado’s Western Slope got roughly a 90 percent eclipse, causing a significant temperature drop as the path of totality crossed the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. The last total solar eclipse in the contiguous U.S. was in 1979.

Chris Cuoco, senior forecaster at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, reported the temperature at his office dropped about 4 degrees.

But readings from Storm King Mountain, just west of Glenwood, showed a drop of at least 9 degrees. Those readings come in only every hour, but at about 11 a.m. the temperature was at 70 degrees, and the next reading at about noon was 61 degrees.

The maximum sun coverage in Glenwood came at 11:42 a.m., and while the midday light was odd, it wasn’t exactly twilight-like.

Cuoco said his research indicated that it takes 95 percent solar occlusion or more to see that dramatic darkening. “That shows you just how darn bright the sun is,” he said.

Still, the darkening in Grand Junction was enough to set off the National Weather Service’s solar lighting in the parking lot.

Several locations in Glenwood, including Iron Mountain Hot Springs, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and the Glenwood Springs Branch Library, served as gather points for eclipse watchers, offering either eclipse glasses or instruction in building viewing devices.

Lots of visitors to Glenwood found a relaxing spot at Iron Mountain Hot Springs to watch the rare celestial event.

Kathy Stahlman, owner of Glenwood’s Injury Release and Wellness, was one of the few locals at the hot springs. It gave her the chance to relive a fond childhood memory. In 1958, when she was 5 years old, Stahlman saw a partial solar eclipse on Long Island, New York.

She had a friend whose father was a nuclear energy scientist at the famed Brookhaven National Laboratory, and he helped her and her friends construct a cardboard pinhole viewing device to watch the solar eclipse.

Margie and Ron Hever from Centennial had planned their trip to Glenwood Springs, but said it was only a happy coincidence that they were in town for the eclipse.

The couple had hunted for a pair of eclipse glasses in Boulder, but after waiting more than an hour, the shop they were at sold out. Luckily, a man they met in line had worked for NASA, and he instructed them how to build their own eclipse filter with a welding shield and cardboard. “This is definitely a historical event,” Ron Hever said.

Brian Glaser and Jennifer Losty from Broomfield were also at Iron Mountain celebrating Losty’s birthday. “We definitely wanted to be at the hot springs because it’s so relaxing, and the experience was beautiful,” said Glaser.

Sarah and Dylan Linenberger, from Dighton, Kansas, were in Glenwood for their honeymoon. “It was just perfect timing,” said Dylan. They have seen some lunar eclipses “but never anything this big of a deal.” Watching from the hot springs, the event was also the newlyweds’ first visit to western Colorado.

Why lane closures are needed on the Grand Avenue bridge

One-lane closures on the Grand Avenue Bridge can cause local traffic clogs but are necessary for work access and pedestrian flow.

Many people have asked us about the need to close lanes of traffic on the Grand Avenue bridge. Simply put, the contractor is working within a very small area to accomplish heavy civil construction activities, such as pouring concrete, building structural walls for the traffic bridge and working on the new south traffic bridge abutment. The goal is to accomplish as much work as possible ahead of the detour to ensure an efficient schedule.

The contractor is also balancing the needs of the downtown pedestrians by maintaining a 4-foot pedestrian walkway between Seventh and Eighth streets. Pedestrian access has been a top priority on the project but often requires some creative maneuvering of equipment and lane closures to maintain this access.

The current traffic bridge is very narrow with no shoulder. This constraint limits the available space required to work on the new bridge construction. This means lane closures are necessary for crews to access the work areas for the new traffic bridge. For example, the 9-foot-wide traffic lane cannot adequately stage a concrete truck, let alone a concrete truck with three lanes of traffic open. We anticipate these one-lane closures to continue until Aug. 14, when the traffic bridge will close.

There is a lane closure restriction in place designated by the Colorado Department of Transportation: Two lanes of traffic must be open in the northbound (downvalley) lanes from 3-7 p.m. and in the southbound (upvalley) lanes from 6-9 a.m. The restrictions are in place to maximize capacity during peak travel times.

The Grand Avenue bridge can close to one lane of traffic in either direction between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. We advertise these lane closures as periodic one-lane closures on the Grand Avenue bridge. The good news is we typically do not have lane closures on the weekend.

Work on the Interstate 70 Exit 116 westbound off-ramp often requires a lane closure on Sixth Street that can back up the traffic on the bridge as well.

Other traffic impacts this week:

• Midland Avenue paving begins today; expect delays.

• Night closures of Ninth and Eighth streets are planned next week from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Paving work hits Midland, downtown

Crews have completed mill and fill operations on U.S. 6 and are paving the downtown detour route and Midland Avenue this week. The paving project is anticipated to be complete in mid-June. As crews move into the downtown area (Eighth and Ninth streets) and Midland Avenue, new traffic impacts, parking closures and street closures are anticipated.

Downtown Paving

The areas are: Eighth Street from School Street to Grand Avenue, Colorado from Eighth to Ninth streets and Ninth Street between Colorado and Grand avenues. Parking in these areas will be closed for the duration of paving.

Beginning Wednesday, May 31, through Friday, June 2, crews will remove the surface of the roadway and replace with new asphalt in the downtown area. Milling will take place from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. on Wednesday, May 31 — anticipate increased construction noise in the area during this time. When milling operations are complete, crews will begin paving the area from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Downtown streets will be closed during working hours, and crews will open city streets at the end of each work day.

Midland Avenue

Crews will also begin milling Midland Avenue from the intersection of Devereux Road to Eighth Street the week of May 29.

Starting Wednesday, May 31, for approximately two weeks, Midland will be in an alternating one-lane configuration while crews pave the road. These areas will change, moving as the project progresses down Midland Avenue. Traffic control will maintain two lanes of traffic when possible. Fifteen-minute delays are anticipated from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Additional Traffic Impacts

Tuesday, May 30, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Ninth Street will be closed from Colorado to Grand avenues and from Cooper to Grand avenues.

Wednesday, June 31, through Friday, June 2, Eighth Street will be closed from Colorado to Grand avenues and Cooper to Grand avenues.

The I-70 Exit 116 eastbound on-ramp remains closed Monday through Friday from 5:30-9 a.m. The I-70 Exit 116 eastbound off-ramp is open during this time.

The I-70 Exit 114 interchange remains in one-lane configuration. Anticipate delays during peak times.

Bridge Answer Man column: You asked for night work — here it is

Our team often gets calls with requests for our crews to work at night. The old saying goes, “Ask and you shall receive.” Our crews are working both days and nights through the rest of the month to complete critical path work for the traffic bridge detour.

This is an accelerated bridge construction project, meaning our team uses safe and cost-effective construction methods to reduce onsite construction time. Here are our traffic impacts for the rest of May:

Nightly Street Closures

Tonight, May 15, through Friday night, May 19, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., crews will close Ninth Street from Colorado to Grand avenues and Cooper to Grand avenues. Monday night, May 22, to Thursday night, May 25, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., Eighth Street from Colorado to Grand avenues and Cooper to Grand avenues will be closed. Crews are installing conduit for upgraded traffic signals along the Colorado 82 corridor.

I-70 Night Detour to Sixth

An I-70 night detour to Sixth Street is scheduled for Thursday, May 18, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. All I-70 traffic (eastbound and westbound) will be detoured onto east Sixth Street. Traffic will merge into a one-lane configuration and will be detoured through Sixth Street via a break-in-barrier on I-70 near the Yampah Vapor Caves. The Grand Avenue Bridge will be closed during this time.

Exit 116 Night Work

The week of May 22 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., the I-70 Exit 116 interchange will be in an alternating one-lane configuration as crews work on a storm drain across the interchange. Flaggers will be in the area directing traffic.

Downtown Paving

Downtown Glenwood Springs on Eighth Street (between School Street and Grand Avenue), Colorado Avenue (between Eighth and Ninth streets) and Ninth Street (between Colorado and Grand avenues) will be paved right after the Memorial Day holiday.

Operations are scheduled for Tuesday, May 30, through Friday, June 2. Parking will be closed in the paving area for the duration of the paving operations downtown. A traffic detour will be in place during operations. Night work is possible May 30 through June 2.

Midland Lane Closures

Beginning Tuesday, May 30, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Midland Avenue from the Exit 114 interchange to Eighth Street will be in an alternating one-lane configuration in some areas for milling operations. Once milling is complete, crews will overlay new asphalt.

Detour Information

More than 100 local businesses attended our Employer Roundtable last week. If you missed it, the presentation, detour fact sheet, detour map, zone map and Spanish-translated materials are on our website at grandavebridge.codot.gov.

Community Open House

Join us from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 27, for our first community open house at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. If you are unable to attend, our public roadshow meetings list is available on our website — grandavebridge.codot.gov — under Phase 3 and GAB Detour Information. Mark your calendars — we hope to see you soon.

Employers assess ways to cut traffic during detour

Grand Avenue Bridge project officials aim to take 700 cars off of Colorado 82 at rush hours, a 35 percent reduction, during the bridge detour later this year. If they’re to succeed, it will be up to some of the area’s larger employers to “lead the pack.”

That was one of the key messages at a roundtable meeting Wednesday at Glenwood Springs City Hall. The meeting drew more than 100 representatives of businesses, including construction contractors, commercial delivery truckers, hospitals, health clinics, banks, nonprofit organizations, auto dealers, schools, retailers and government organizations.

For its part, Garfield County government will shift a significant portion of its workforce to facilities in Rifle during the 95-day detour period, which begins Aug. 14.

Valley View Hospital has more than 500 employees who live north of the Colorado River in Glenwood and farther west along the Interstate 70 corridor, according to its human resources director Daniel Biggs.

“This is a huge deal for us,” Biggs said after the meeting. VVH employees will be encouraged to take advantage of the free Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus service from New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute, as well as the multiple free in-city shuttles that will be in place.

“We want our people to be starting to get used to the bus ahead of that Aug. 14 date,” he said. “They should be starting to do that in July.”

Shifting work schedules is difficult for the hospital itself to accomplish. But with Valley View’s clinic facilities in Silt, Carbondale and Basalt, as many employees who can work off-site, and as many patients who can schedule appointments in those locations, the better, he said.

Pediatrics and some women’s health care can be done at the satellite clinics. The Callaway-Young Cancer Center has also begun working with Grand River Health Center in Rifle for certain cancer treatments and follow-up procedures, Biggs noted.

The city of Glenwood Springs is taking a proactive approach with its own workforce to reduce the number of cars on the roads.

The city will switch to a four, 10-hour-a-day workweek Monday through Thursday during the detour, and City Hall will be closed on Fridays for those three-plus months, City Manager Debra Figueroa said.

City employees who ride the bus, walk or ride their bikes from park-and-ride lots will be allowed to use city-owned vehicles to run errands during the day. The city is also buying three electric bicycles for city employee use for getting around town. The city has agreed to allow use of e-bikes on paved city trails during the detour.

The Glenwood Springs Police Department will also rely heavily on e-bikes to get to any emergency calls within the downtown core area, Police Chief Terry Wilson said.

“It will be our primary response mechanism in the downtown area during those peak hours,” he said, adding his department is buying four e-bikes in addition to the other city bikes. The fire department will also use them.

A police officer or EMT can get to the scene by bike and control the situation faster than the time it might take a patrol car, he said.

“We also expect that we will have more bike and pedestrian traffic on our trails than ever before during the detour, and it will be good to have our people out there making sure people are following the rules and that they’re safe,” Wilson said. “We want those paths to be a safe alternative transportation corridor.”

Current Grand Avenue and Midland Avenue traffic peaks at about 1,700 vehicles per hour during the morning rush from 6-9 a.m., and about 1,900 per hour during the evening rush between 3:30-7 p.m., project engineer Graham Riddile explained. The detour route will be at capacity at around 1,300-1,400 vehicles, he said.

“As you can see, those morning and afternoon peaks are well above capacity,” Riddile said. “Once that bridge goes down, we’re going to experience something that we’re very much not used to in this valley.

“If no one changes, it’s going to be bad, it’s that simple,” he said.

To encourage workers and others to self-organize car pools and shared errand runs, the bridge project public information team has split Glenwood Springs into five neighborhood zones. There, residents are urged to work together to come up with travel solutions during the detour.

Glenwood plans for ‘state of emergency’ during detour

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.

BIKE RULES

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.

MORE PARKING

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.

Guest opinion: What are you doing to prepare for the detour?

I know that oftentimes the impact of constructing large infrastructure projects can seem overwhelming. Why are they doing this to me? Is this project helping me or benefiting someone else?

“Infrastructure” is a term used to describe the basic structures and improvements needed in order for society to operate and function. Replacement of the Grand Avenue Bridge is a critical infrastructure project — after construction is completed, it will enhance our basic infrastructure and in turn help us get around and function better in our daily lives.

The Grand Avenue Bridge traffic detour is quickly approaching. Aug. 14 will be here soon, and the time to start thinking about how you will deal with it is fast approaching.

For the traffic bridge detour to operate efficiently, a significant reduction in vehicle trips and traffic is needed.

If you haven’t tuned into the project, if you are taking the wait-and-see approach, if you don’t plan to make changes, if you don’t consider the reality of the detour’s impacts — you are missing an opportunity to plan and be prepared.

The contractor will be working multiple consecutive day and night shifts while the detour is in effect. Several critical aspects of construction are planned, orchestrated and executed in a finite schedule. In order to successfully work through the expedited bridge-building process, the contractor must be able to receive materials, access the project and have basic mobility throughout the area for crews and equipment.

The contractors are looking at ways in which they can avoid the detour route during the accelerated bridge construction to avoid compounding traffic delays. Given that there are limited routes that aren’t weight-restricted to the project, the contractors will use the detour route in order to successfully work through the construction process.

Working together is the only way to keep traffic levels in check.

This effort is communitywide — if we are not able to make voluntary reduction in vehicle trips around Glenwood Springs, the impact may compound throughout the region.

You have heard us say this before, but we can’t say this enough: Everyone ­— every employer, every agency, every individual — should be developing goals and creating a plan to reach this much-needed reduction in traffic.

I live in Carbondale and plan on parking in the southwest corner of the American Furniture Warehouse lot then taking the bus or riding my bike to my downtown office. I plan on shopping on Sundays and leaving for Denver at 4 a.m. when I must go to avoid the peak travel times in Glenwood Springs.

As a business owner, I am working with my staff on telecommuting and shift scheduling options. My team is planning on having an office bike to get to our meetings throughout the day and is planning on using public transportation.

There are many strategies that we as a community can leverage. Simply put, no change in driving habits will result in one-hour delays one way during peak travel times; if habits do change and a 35 percent reduction in traffic is attained, a 15-minute delay is anticipated. There is no silver bullet, no one-size-fits-all solution. What are you doing to prepare for the detour?

How will you help to contribute to our community infrastructure needs? Contact my office if want to know more about the tools we have to help you get through the detour.

Kathleen Wanatowicz is public information manager for the Grand Avenue bridge project. Reach her at kathleen@prstudioco.com or 970-618-5114.

A river runs through bridge construction

The days are getting warmer, and we are seeing several boat trailers making their way to Colorado River put-ins. Crews have removed some of the south causeway rock, and will reuse it to build a smaller north causeway this summer on the north side of the Colorado River bank.

In addition to the north causeway, work to happen over the Colorado River includes: deconstructing the existing Grand Avenue bridge, setting steel for the new traffic bridge and pouring concrete this summer.

Each of these activities affects Colorado River put-ins upstream of the Grand Avenue bridge. Here’s what we know so far.

North Causeway Construction

Depending on the rate of the river’s flow, measured in cubic feet per second (cfs), crews will begin building the north causeway in early July or early August. The contractor anticipates the causeway construction will take approximately three weeks, and a spotter will be in the area monitoring boat traffic. Temporary holds are possible in the eddy east of the bridge.

Bridge Demolition

Crews will begin demolition of the Grand Avenue Bridge at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Aug. 14. During the demolition (approximately two weeks), Shoshone, Grizzly Creek and No-Name put-ins will be closed to private river trips. Permitted commercial guides with vehicle permits will be authorized to run double trips from Shoshone to Grizzly Creek during this time. The Shoshone (Exit 123) and Grizzly Creek (Exit 121) rest areas will be closed during this time. These closures are round-the-clock until deconstruction is complete.

Steel Girder Erection

At the end of August to early September, crews will begin setting the remaining steel tub girders over the Colorado River. The girder erection schedule requires approximately 10 continuous days of Colorado River put-in closures. Shoshone, Grizzly Creek and No Name put-ins will be closed to private river trips. Permitted commercial guides with vehicle permits will be authorized to run double trips from Shoshone to Grizzly Creek during this time. The Shoshone (Exit 123) and Grizzly Creek (Exit 121) rest areas will be closed during this time. These closures are round-the-clock until steel girders are set.

Concrete Deck Pours

Crews will pour the concrete deck for the Colorado River section in September or October. No river closures are anticipated, but a spotter will be located on the north causeway for safety.

Communication

Daily conference call briefings will begin in August at 3 p.m. Anyone can call in to listen to river and project updates. In addition, boaters can call or text the project hotline 970-618-9897. The voicemail will be updated daily during put-in closures. The project Facebook page will also be updated daily during closures.

Safety

Remember to stay river right approaching the Grand Avenue bridge. Crews will be working on both the north and south causeways. Be alert. Flaggers will be at the put-ins managing traffic. These Colorado River put-in closure periods are dependent on wind, weather and a dynamic construction schedule. Remember to call or text 970-618-9897 before you float.