Cottonwood Pass won’t be a viable detour during Glenwood bridge project
All of the strategies for getting through the 95-day Grand Avenue Bridge construction period emphasize the need to drive less. Colorado Department of Transportation consultant Tom Newland said the 700-vehicle reduction figure sounds large, but when broken down into components, he demonstrated how it becomes possible:
• Commuters use RFTA — 150
• Commuters carpooling/vanpooling — 150
• School kids/parents carpool or using RFTA — 150
• Schedule shifts or telecommuting — 100
• Bike, walk or use Glenwood bus for trips around town — 100
• Combine trips, avoid rush hour — 100
Those targeted reductions add up to the 700 vehicle reduction goal. If residents and visitors embrace the options, the delay through Glenwood will be approximately 15 minutes. If they don’t, delays could reach an hour.
“The bottom line is, there are no other options. People are going to have to change their habits,” Newland said.
EAGLE — No one is sugar-coating the anticipated impacts of the Grand Avenue Bridge closure planned in Glenwood Springs beginning Aug. 14 and continuing until Thanksgiving.
Anyone who lives in, commutes through or visits Glenwood Springs will experience what the Colorado Department of Transportation is calling the “high pain/low duration” plan.
The Grand Avenue Bridge — which spans the Colorado River and is the primary access to downtown Glenwood Springs — is the largest infrastructure project on the Western Slope in 25 years. Construction is now in phase three of the five-phase project, as crews are working to replace the more than five-decade-old traffic bridge.
As part of the communications effort launched to inform residents and visitors about the project impact, CDOT consultant Tom Newland met with the Eagle County commissioners this week. Newland noted there is already a flurry of construction activity around Glenwood, as crews work on the detour route for the bridge construction. At 12:01 a.m. Aug. 14, traffic will be diverted to the detour route, which runs from the West Glenwood exit along Midland Avenue to Eighth Street.
While that route will get motorists through the community, it doesn’t have the capacity to serve Glenwood’s existing traffic volumes. The state has launched an extensive education campaign to enlist motorists’ help in weathering the construction period.
Eagle County officials are equally interested in making sure motorists don’t see Cottonwood Pass as a viable detour to the Glenwood construction.
Not a great alternative
“We are a little worried about Cottonwood Pass,” said Commissioner Jill Ryan during the Tuesday meeting. “We need to restrict the kinds of vehicles that go over Cottonwood Pass. We don’t want that to be the general contingency plan.”
Eagle County Assistant Attorney Holly Strablizky said the county wants to avoid the situation where someone calls up Google Maps and decides to try Cottonwood Pass to get to Glenwood, regardless of whether or not he or she is driving a vehicle suitable for the trip. In particular, she noted truckers need to know the route is unsuitable for their vehicles.
Strablizky said the county does plan to install signs warning truckers that they won’t be able to make it over Cottonwood Pass, but she asked Newland if there are other communications channels available to deter them. Newland said CDOT plans to distribute information at weigh stations, where truckers have to stop when they enter the state, discouraging attempts to travel over Cottonwood Pass. Additionally, the county representatives asked the state to explore tapping into databases where truckers plot routes and any other available communications channels.
“I think we can’t stress this enough. It’s a dangerous situation for our sheriff’s office and for tow companies,” Ryan said.
Newland applauded the county’s plans to post signs warning motorists about the conditions and limitations of Cottonwood Pass. He pledged to bring the county’s Cottonwood Pass concerns to CDOT officials involved with the Glenwood bridge project.
For Eagle County residents who travel to Glenwood, Newland warns motorists to be prepared for the delays anticipated as the bridge detour begins.
“We are essentially fitting 10 pounds of traffic into a 5-pound bag,” Newland told the commissioners. He noted in order for the plan to work, there must be a significant overall traffic reduction. The goal is to cut 700 vehicle trips per hour.
Therein lies the community’s travel challenge and CDOT’s straightforward message to motorists: “Plan Ahead. Team Up. Drive Less.”
Newland said people need to travel through Glenwood for work, shopping and appointments. But CDOT hopes motorists will combine their trips and employers will shift schedules or offer telecommuting alternatives.
“If people don’t voluntarily change their habits, we are looking at a one-hour delay to get through Glenwood,” Newland said. “That’s our challenge, and we have to work together to address it.”
Newland said other solutions include parking in west Glenwood and then walking or riding a bike to locations around town. He said the new pedestrian/bike bridge over the Colorado is completed, making this a viable option.
The Roaring Fork Transit Authority and the Glenwood Springs bus system are both offering special commuter options during the bridge construction to help workers navigate the site. CDOT will issue priority permits for motorists who participate in carpool/vanpool programs that will give vehicles a priority position through the detour zone.
Newland said there is an active outreach program that has divided Glenwood into five zones so people can team up with neighbors to form carpools.
“People are also coming up with their own solutions, and that is exciting to see,” Newland said.