Trying to dodge Glenwood detour? Side routes not worth it, cops say

Ryan Summerlin
Glenwood Post-Independent
The view from Eighth Street and Blake Avenue was of a long wait Monday afternoon. Glenwood Springs police have started holding back traffic at Eighth Street and Cooper Avenue to keep bus traffic from the Amtrak station running smoothly and to discourage drivers from trying to bypass the Grand Avenue detour route.
Ryan Summerlin / Post Independent

Since the afternoon detour traffic got particularly chaotic in downtown last week, Glenwood Springs police will start holding traffic at Eighth Street and Cooper Avenue in an effort to keep the intersection clear and discourage afternoon detour drivers from taking Blake Avenue.

Recently Glenwood has started seeing afternoon commuter traffic backed up all the way through town as early as 1 p.m. And many drivers traveling downvalley try to dodge the official detour route on Grand Avenue by driving north on Blake.

The official afternoon detour route for the Grand Avenue bridge project is to drive north on South Glen Avenue/Grand Avenue to Eighth Street, turn left, travel west to Midland Avenue, then turn right and follow Midland to Interstate 70.

Those drivers jogging two blocks east to Blake are causing some major headaches around Eighth and Cooper as they try to get back on the official detour, said Police Chief Terry Wilson, who’s been regularly conducting traffic in downtown.

Drivers who do not live in the neighborhoods east of Grand are urged to stick to the detour route and stay off Blake.

Starting Monday, officers conducting traffic at Eighth and Cooper let about four cars at a time travel west through the intersection to queue up at Eighth and Grand, where officers will heavily favor detour traffic that’s already on Grand. A big part of this is to ensure buses traveling to and from the Amtrak station can get through Eighth and Cooper.

On Monday afternoon, officers were also posted at Eighth and Blake to make sure that intersection stayed clear.

At peak times, three sets of officers — at Eighth and Colorado Avenue; at Eighth and Grand; and at Eighth and Cooper — are in line of sight of each other and have been conducting traffic by hand signal.

Officers conducting traffic in this area plan to make a painful wait for those taking Blake, just like the drivers who try to skirt the afternoon detour by taking South Midland, said Wilson.

The result for those “cheaters” who jump off Grand and bypass traffic through town on Blake will be that they’re going to be on a very slow-moving street for a very long time, he said. “Blake is not part of the detour route, and we’re not going to treat it as part of the detour.”

Last week congestion in downtown became “just atrocious” and police saw a mood shift in some drivers, he said. They were a little more grumpy, more aggressive and more creative in their attempts to go around the detour, said the chief. That trend is not allowing the detour at Eighth and Grand to work, he said.

A potentially dangerous trend has been for the intersection of Eighth and Cooper to be completely plugged up with cars — right outside Glenwood’s downtown fire station. “One thing I don’t like is having completely plugged up a place where we need to get fire trucks and ambulances out,” said Wilson.

Buses servicing the Amtrak station also have to get through that intersection. The chief aims for this change to keep the intersection clear and help keep buses from having to battle cars clogging up the intersection.

The whole message is to push that traffic back onto Grand and get off Blake, said the chief.

Complaints will probably come in that traffic is backed up all the way to 27th Street on Blake, which probably will happen, said Wilson. The Police Department will try out this traffic pattern for a few days, then assess how it’s going.

“So we’re going to turn Blake into a parking lot for a few days and see how it goes,” said the chief.