Eagle isn't a one-horse town, but it is a one-road town.
That road is Eby Creek and it is the community's single link to Interstate 70. When residents talk about traffic problems in the community, chances are their bones of contention lay along that half-mile section of roadway.
And beginning in 2013, Eby Creek Road is getting a comprehensive makeover that will include construction of four roundabouts and installation of a new pedestrian/bicycle bridge over I-70 along with new landscaping, signs and reconfiguration of the roadway to better address traffic needs.
The $14 million project has been in the planning stages since 2008 and will include a $3 million contribution from the town of Eagle and an $11 million investment from the Colorado Department of Transportation. The state is the actual owner of the Eby Creek roadway.
"This is coming a bit quicker than we thought it would," said Tom Gosiorowski, Eagle town engineer. "The big news on Eby Creek Road is we are planning to begin construction next July."
According to Gosiorowski and Martha Miller, Eagle resident engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation, Eagle's $3 million investment is a big part of what brought Eby Creek Road to the top of the state's project list.
"The state is in a position where we really appreciate funding partners and the town of Eagle had $3 million to contribute," said Miller.
For a number of years, Eagle's capital spending has been slim and much of it was allocated to planning and engineering for Eby Creek Road. "We really have been saving up for the past four years," said Gosiorowski. "The town's whole capital fund budget is approximately $3.5 million and we are really going all-in on this project, based on what we have."
What will the town and state get for their $14 million? According to Gosiorowski, the work will mean a whole new entryway to Eagle.
When the Eby Creek Road project is done, Eagle will present a whole new image to visitors, said Gosiorowski.
"Visually, right now the corridor is not an entry we can be proud of. It will be when we complete this project," he said.
While the work is intended to address safety and traffic concerns, it will vastly improve the community's gateway appearance.
"For people who see the plan, the new bridge over I-70 is the 'Wow' factor," said Gosiorowski.
The new pedestrian/bike bridge will solve a serious safety problem that anyone who has ever tried to bike or walk across the existing vehicle bridge can attest to. The bridge offers only a narrow passage for walkers or bikers.
The new bridge will be located east of the existing overpass and will connect Market Street. The bridge will also trumpet Eagle to motorists with an attractive design and special "Town of Eagle" signs.
Beginning at Market Street and continuing to U.S. Highway 6, Eagle will be an all-roundabouts town with the construction of the traffic improvements at Market Street, both the westbound and eastbound I-70 interchanges and at Chambers Avenue. Additionally, the existing U.S. 6 roundabout will be widened.
Gosiorowski said initial plans call for the I-70 interchange westbound and eastbound roundabouts construction in 2013. The following year will see construction of the Market Street and Chambers Avenue roundabouts along with the new bridge and the landscaping improvements.
Because Eby Creek Road is the community's transportation lifeline, construction will unavoidably bring its share of inconvenience. Gosiorowski said crews are looking at ways to minimize those issues.
"A lot of this work may be done at night," he said. "Additionally we want to minimize any work that requires lane constriction during commute times."
Those commuter hours are approximately 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Some of the work likely will require complete traffic shutdowns for specific periods of time, Gosiorowski noted. An example will be when the new pedestrian/bike bridge is put in place over I-70.
As the town and the state move forward with planning Eby Creek Road construction in 2013, the next big step in the process is to bring on the company that will actually build the new roadway.
In next few weeks, the state will issue a request for proposals for a Construction Manager/General Contractor for the project. The town and state have already hosted an information meeting so firms interested in the work can get details about the project. The schedule calls for interviews late this year and a hiring decision by January.
"The construction manager/general contractor process allows for the contractor to start planning way in advance for the start of construction and to find out the least impactful ways to do the work," said Gosiorowski. "Everyone who looks at this project has understood that really, this is our only access to I-70. There is no alternate route."
Miller said the state has had great success with the construction manager/general contractor process in projects that include the Edwards spur road, the twin tunnels near Idaho Springs and the Dotsero bridge.
"We want to bring the contractor on early so they can talk with the locals about the project," said Miller. "We don't have any other routes to I-70 or the post office or the grocery store and this work is really going to have an impact."
Miller agreed that night work may be a possibility to address some of the impacts but until the contractor, together with the state and town, engages community members in a discussion, they won't know what impacts that alternative creates and whether it will be a good solution. "We are going to have to really think this through and that's the whole reason to bring the contractor on early. We want to have the contractor help us make these decisions."
As construction approaches, the town will host information sessions for citizens and businesses to learn more about the construction plan and when the work begins, Gosiorowski said regular information updates are planned.
Expect it to be inconvenient, but worth the trouble. Miller noted that right now, Eagle area residents are feeling ever increasing traffic pressures and have likely reached the tipping point to where they are willing to put up with construction for an extended period with the promise of a long-term solution.
"Everyone is getting to that point where they just want it done," she said. "And then the town will get a gateway to the community."
"It will be a much more inviting way to come into Eagle," Gosiorowski said.