Glenwood bridge project hits traffic in new ways | VailDaily.com

Glenwood bridge project hits traffic in new ways

John Stroud
jstroud@postindependent.com

No fooling, April will bring some significant new traffic and pedestrian impacts to downtown Glenwood Springs as work associated with the Grand Avenue bridge replacement project moves into the spring construction season and opening of the new pedestrian bridge is still a few weeks off.

Effects will extend to Interstate 70 Exits 114 and 116, as well, as work continues to get ready for final highway bridge construction later this year and the 95-day bridge detour that will begin Aug. 14.

Starting Tuesday, the one-block sections of Eighth Street east and west of Grand Avenue will be closed for two days at a time as the Colorado Department of Transportation begins installing new, high-tech traffic signals at two major intersections.

Eighth Street east of Grand to Cooper Avenue will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, meaning motorists cannot use that block and pedestrian access between the 700 and 800 blocks of Grand will be first routed to Cooper.

The same scenario will be in place Thursday and Friday for the one-block stretch west of Grand to Colorado Avenue. The following week, the signal work moves to the Ninth Street intersection, starting east of Grand on April 10 and 11, and moving to the block west of Grand on April 12 and 13.

Business and pedestrian access will be maintained during the closures, and pedestrian access will be detoured as necessary, according to project officials.

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The closures will allow for the installation of upgraded traffic signal technology at the two downtown intersections in advance of the new Colorado 82/Grand Avenue bridge being completed. The signals themselves, which were installed in 2009, are being replaced, as well.

Newer technology will increase traffic efficiency by sensing when vehicles are on Grand or waiting at intersections, and allowing for a real-time response for signal changes, CDOT engineer Josh Cullen explained during a meeting Friday morning with downtown business and property owners.

In an effort to allow better movement from side streets onto Grand, the signals will be "adaptable," meaning there won't be a static time before the lights change. Rather, they will sense when there is a break in traffic on Grand and trigger the signal change if a motorist or pedestrian is waiting to turn onto or cross the main thoroughfare, Cullen explained.

While the signal equipment will be installed, the smart technology won't be fully functional until after the detour period when the new bridge is opened, he said.

Although not specifically planned, at the suggestion of some at the Friday meeting, Cullen said he will ask CDOT higher-ups if the pedestrian walk signals at Eighth and Ninth can be automatic, instead of triggered by a button, which can tend to confuse some people who want to cross.

Project officials also spoke at the downtown meeting about the timeline for opening the new pedestrian bridge over the Colorado River and I-70, which has been delayed for more than a month due to some of the detail work that is being completed.

"We could have opened the bridge sooner and had people walking across it while we were doing this work, but we decided as a team that wasn't a good thing to do and that we wanted to wait and open it when it is fully complete," said Pat Kalisz, project manager for joint venture general contractor Granite-Wadsworth.

A repair job on the stairway treads on the south end of the pedestrian bridge that was required by the steps not being up to code, and ongoing work to install the bridge railings have been among the latest hold-ups, he said.

"It is disappointing for us, and we've struggled all winter trying to do what we can to open it when we wanted to open it," Kalisz said of the original March 1 target date to open the new foot and bicycle span. "But the bridge is going to be amazing when it's done and everyone starts walking across it. I think everyone will appreciate all the work that's gone into it."

As it stands, it will likely be mid-April before the bridge is open, he said.

Even then, handicapped access over the river will continue to be via the temporary walkway that is attached to the existing vehicle bridge, as the elevators that will eventually provide ADA-required access from Seventh Street up to the pedestrian bridge will not be ready until early July, project officials said.

Work also begins next week at the main Glenwood Springs Exit 116, where the eastbound on-ramp will be closed between 6-9 a.m. Monday through Friday for paving. During that time period, motorists heading east on I-70 will have to use the West Glenwood interchange.

Additional traffic impacts over the next few weeks will occur at the Exit 114 south roundabout, where construction crews are starting work to increase vehicle capacity for the upcoming detour.

"All of the work you're seeing there is to prepare for the detour and to expand that section so it can take additional capacity," project public information manager Kathleen Wanatowicz said at the downtown meeting.

During the peak morning commuter period from 7-8:30 a.m., traffic control will be in place to allow traffic coming off of I-70 to pass through uninhibited and prevent backups, while vehicles coming from the north side of I-70 will be held periodically during that time. This work will continue until June.

Interchange work will also impact westbound motorists exiting I-70, as "rolling" lane closures will be in place on the westbound off ramp for several weeks as well, meaning the ramp will be down to one lane at times, project officials said.

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