Garfield County thoroughfares have gridlock in their future |

Garfield County thoroughfares have gridlock in their future

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The two main highways through Garfield County – State Highway 82 and Interstate 70 – are both facing serious congestion-related problems in the not-so-distant future, the Board of County Commissioners was told this week.

The commissioners this week heard predictions that Highway 82, as it passes through Glenwood Springs, is expected to reach a “failure” level by the year 2030 unless something is done to prevent it.

At that point, according to an ongoing Corridor Optimization Plan (COP) being put together by a collection of regional and local governments, Highway 82 will be gridlocked for up to 11 hours a day.

Motorists driving through town, the plan predicts, will be mired in bumper-to-bumper traffic for up to 34 minutes or more.

Glenwood Springs City Engineer Mike McDill, who is working on the COP to lay out options for preventing gridlock on the highway, presented the executive summary of a draft version of the study that ultimately is destined for the Colorado State Transportation Commission.

The commissioners, who are partners in the COP effort, declined to give their endorsement to the study until they have read the document in its entirety, and are expected to discuss it again on March 15.

McDill said the study will not offer recommendations, and that it is “truly just a technical report” meant to give elected leaders a list of options for dealing with traffic issues.

He noted that the predictions laid out in the report are contingent upon a variety of factors, ranging from the health of the economy to the price of gasoline and fluctuations in the local workforce numbers.

For instance, he said, traffic on Highway 82, as recorded by a permanent counter in South Glenwood Springs, has declined in the past year, as the national recession hit the Western Slope.

Looking only at October counts, he said, traffic dropped from a peak of 25,725 vehicles per day in October 2007 to 22,560 in October 2009.

McDill said the finalized COP is due to be completed by the end of March, or so.

In addition to the study of Highway 82, the commissioners agreed to pay a “special assessment” of $5,700 to cover Garfield County’s share of the costs of planning for improvements to I-70, which also is expected to become more and more congested in the coming years.

Commissioner Tresi Houpt, who is a member of the I-70 coalition of regional governments, noted that talk of adding lanes to I-70 appear doomed.

“As soon is it would be built, it would be beyond capacity,” she reported, explaining that the idea of a “fixed guideway” mass transit system along the I-70 corridor appears to be gaining acceptance.

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