Question. Where does all the traffic go during the Grand Avenue Bridge construction?
This question may not keep you up at night, but I guarantee it is keeping some folks awake.
Even with what the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) terms an “accelerated bridge construction” dealing with the day to day challenge of getting from the north side of the Colorado River to the south side and back may be –shall we say – a “challenge.” Accelerated bridge construction would necessitate the bridge being totally closed to traffic for approximately two months under a best case scenario.
So what is the solution to getting people into and through Glenwood Springs during this potentially painful period?
Introducing . . . the “8th Street Connection”
The current expectation is that CDOT will be allowed to temporarily cut the railroad track in the wye area and build a temporary detour from the bridge that spans the Roaring Fork north of Veltus Park to 8th street, in front of Glenwood Springs City Hall and the Garfield County Courthouse. This will come with the approval of the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR), Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
Graphic courtesy of Craig Gaskill, and Jacobs Engineering
Currently, vehicles coming from Midland Avenue into the downtown must use an underpass along 7th Street. This underpass does not meet minimum CDOT height and width requirements. Trucks are the biggest concern. In order to use 7th Street, the street would need to be lowered or the tracks raised. This connection is also a very dangerous path for pedestrians and bicyclists.
It is anticipated that Midland Avenue to 27th Street and the Sunlight Bridge will also carry a fair amount of detour traffic, particularly for those heading up-valley. However, there are concerns with the Sunlight Bridge. CDOT is planning some improvements to that bridge in anticipation of construction.
An 8th Street Connection also affords the City of Glenwood an additional opportunity to accomplish a major goal – a permanent connection linking Midland Avenue to 8th Street. City staff and City Council members, in a recent workshop with the city’s Transportation Commission, made it clear that this 8th Street Connection now tops the list of city priorities. According to City Council member Ted Edmonds, “The City Council has been very clear to staff — this is the number one priority. This is the biggest deal that is on our plate. This is the thing that should take precedence over other projects, if necessary.”
With so many stakeholders in the process, there are many loose ends and unknowns. However, it is also an excellent example of the partnership between Glenwood Springs and CDOT and, potentially, others that could be beneficial to all.
You may wonder why this is truly a BIG deal for the city. Here are seven reasons city staff, city council and the transportation commission must continue to make this the top priority:
- A permanent connection increases the connectivity and improves the circulation within the city of Glenwood Springs, a goal of the Comprehensive Plan, the Corridor Optimization Plan and the Long Range Transportation Plan
- Without at least a temporary connection, CDOT could opt to scrap the accelerated bridge construction in favor of a more drawn out process, one that could last 12 to 18 months but would allow traffic to still use the Grand Avenue Bridge or
- Midland Avenue to 27th Street could be used as the primary detour route for trucks which would impact the residents along Midland to a greater degree
- The city would lose the opportunity to have some of the costs for a permanent connection paid for by CDOT in association with the Grand Avenue Bridge project
- It will greatly improve pedestrian and bicycle safety from the Red Mountain area and Two River’s Park to the downtown area
- It will connect the downtown to the Confluence area and the potential commercial, housing, and recreational uses that may be developed.
- This connection has the potential to positively affect RFTA by providing a more direct route and easier passage for their buses.
The public will have the opportunity to weigh in on this connection at some point in the future as it moves through City Council. However, you don’t have to wait! Please take a few minutes to let me know what you think now!