Glenwood bridge replacement needs traffic reduction from Aspen-area
IF YOU GO:
What: Public meeting on effects of Grand Avenue Bridge replacement in Glenwood Springs
Where: Aspen City Hall
When: Noon on July 19
Who: All interested parties are welcome. Employers are urged to attend.
Aspen-area employers will be enlisted to help reduce traffic so Glenwood Springs doesn’t become complete gridlock during the Grand Avenue Bridge closure and detour, which starts in less than two months.
Traffic needs to be reduced by 700 vehicles trips per hour at peak times to get to a level that can be handled by the detour roads, Colorado Department of Transportation project engineer Graham Riddile told an audience in excess of 100 people Tuesday at Glenwood Springs.
“It’s still going to be busy,” he said. “There’s still going to be congestion.”
In the best-case scenario — by reducing traffic by 700 vehicles per hour — it will take an extra 15 minutes to navigate through Glenwood, he said. In the worst-case scenario — no reduction — it will take an extra hour to get through town.
Riddile and Kathleen Wanatowicz, public information director for the contractor, said there’s no sugarcoating that it will be rough during the closure, which starts Aug. 14 and is scheduled for 95 days, for Glenwood Springs and everyone dependent on transit in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“In the end there is no option,” Wanatowicz said. “We need to get it done. Personal habits will have to change.”
The peak travel hours are between 6 and 9 a.m. and 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Traffic typically spikes to 1,800 vehicles per hour.
While the Grand Avenue Bridge is being replaced, all traffic in and out of the Roaring Fork Valley via Interstate 70 will be funneled through West Glenwood Springs (exit 114). Traffic will be detoured along Midland Avenue to West Eighth Street, then hooked into Grand Avenue south of the bridgework.
Tom Newland, a former Pitkin County engineer and current public information manager for CDOT for the Grand Avenue Bridge replacement, said the closure will affect major employers with employees commuting from West Glenwood Springs and points west — New Castle, Silt, Rifle and beyond.
“I think construction is going to be most impacted,” he said.
The governments of Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County may be asked to temporarily suspend limits on early-morning construction. Pitkin County, for example, allows construction from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. By allowing contractors to gear up earlier, workers would commute prior to the peak time, Newland noted.
It is not certain if a formal request has been made to the upper-valley governments to ease construction-hour limits.
Riddile said it is vital that upper-valley employers talk to employees living west of Glenwood Springs about coordinating trips or using alternative transportation during the bridge project.
The CDOT-contractor team will make a presentation about the bridge replacement and related transit issues in Aspen on July 19. There will be a session for city of Aspen officials and another for the general public at noon at City Hall’s council chambers.
During the bridge closure, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will expand frequency of service and make it free between Glenwood Springs and Parachute. Buses won’t enter the detour. Instead they will unload passengers north of the Colorado River at the pedestrian bridge. Riders will walk to the Amtrak station where they can catch a shuttle to the 27th Street station, a major bus stop.
RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship said service should be unaffected between south Glenwood Springs and Aspen.
“At this point in time we don’t see major disruptions,” he said.
The bigger problem, he said, is employees returning home to the I-70 corridor at afternoon rush hour. Congestion is expected as traffic enters Glenwood Springs from the south, so it will take extra time for people to return home, he said.
CDOT has a page on its website about the project and what else commuters need to know. CDOT and contractor representatives have held several public meetings about the project in recent months and plan a blitz over the next six weeks.
Nevertheless, some people will still be clueless.
“We still hear people saying, ‘We didn’t know they were closing the bridge,’” CDOT regional communications manager Tracy Trulove said.
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Interstate 70 is more than 60 miles south of Craig across rugged terrain. But when the east-west thoroughfare that bisects the state is shut down due to mudslides in Glenwood Canyon, the impact is felt close to home.