Hwy. 82 work to test drivers’ patience
CARBONDALE ” Carbondale Mayor Michael Hassig doesn’t need testimonials from residents and workers about how bad traffic jams are because of road work right now. He’s experienced the worst.
Hassig said it took him 30 minutes to move about 1.5 miles on Highway 82 before the intersection with Highway 133 while returning from Denver on Tuesday. Traffic slowed to a crawl even farther back, at the Aspen Glen golf community, some travelers reported.
Travel lanes on Highway 82 were constricted because of construction at the bridge over the Roaring Fork River at the two highways’ junction. The Colorado Department of Transportation is adding two lanes.
Hassig said he can’t complain too much about the current travel hassles knowing that they are for a good cause. Once the expanded bridge opens, it should make it easier to enter and exit Carbondale for years to come.
“I’m afraid we’re going to have to suffer with the inconvenience,” Hassig said. “The steps CDOT can take are limited.”
The Carbondale project isn’t the only one that will test the patience of commuters this summer. Two major projects are under way on Highway 82, and a third is scheduled to start soon.
The three projects ” the Carbondale bridge, the construction of bus lanes near Aspen and resurfacing over a 3.5-mile stretch of Highway 82 in the midvalley ” won’t be completed until fall.
The Carbondale project is about 70 percent complete, according to the state transportation department. The $4.64 million project features the addition of a second turn lane from downvalley-bound Highway 82 onto Highway 133 and replacing the traffic signal, as well as widening the bridge.
“Right now, crews are removing and reconstructing the existing bridge deck ” reinforced concrete with an asphalt overlay ” and tying the two structures together with a raised median,” the transportation department said in a press release.
Speed limits have been lowered and, at times, traffic lanes reduced in deference to the construction workers. Traffic heading out of town backs up as far as Main Street, roughly 1 mile away. And traffic coming into town seems to snarl each day about 2 p.m. as volumes increase, observers noted.
As a result, frustrated motorists are using Catherine Store Road and Garfield County Road 109, the “back route” behind Aspen Glen, as alternatives, said Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling. Residents along those roads call the police department to ticket speeders, but both roads are in Garfield County’s jurisdiction, Schilling said.
The road work has knocked Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses off schedule by 15 to 20 minutes on some days, said Dan Blankenship, RFTA chief executive officer. RFTA buses use alternative routes to enter and leave town when they can. A separate bus circulates within town to ease the demands on the buses headed up- and downvalley.
“We’re kind of using every trick that we can,” said Blankenship.
At the Aspen end of the valley, traffic is slowed at times during weekdays for construction of bus lanes just west of town.
Commuters will soon deal as well with a resurfacing project over a 3.5-mile stretch of Highway 82 between Blue Lake’s entrance and the highway’s intersection with lower Two Rivers Road ” between mile marker 17.5 and 21 in the El Jebel and Willits areas.
CDOT’s contractor will strip off the old surface and resurface with three inches of asphalt. New guardrails and signs will also be added as part of the $3.68 million project. Traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction, except during prime commute times. There will be no restrictions in the upvalley-bound lanes from 6:30 to 9 a.m. or in the downvalley lanes from 3:30 to 6 p.m., according to CDOT. The speed limit through the construction zone will be lowered from 55 mph to 35 mph.
CDOT is urging motorists to be patient and obey the directions so that its workers remain safe.
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