Thankful in a roundabout way
Back in Jan of 2001, Eagle Town Engineer Tom Gosiorowski drove Eby Creek Road for the very first time.
He had arrived in town to interview for his job and was very conscious of the fact that he wanted to get to the Eagle Public Works building on time. As a result, he vividly remembers how he had to sit through three traffic light signal cycles before he could make the left turn onto Chambers Avenue.
“I thought to myself, that is the first thing we need to get fixed in this town,” said Gosiorowski. “Now its 14 years later and we have finally gotten it done.”
Years in the making
It seems only fitting that the Eby Creek Road construction project nears competition during a holiday season dedicated to the concept of thankfulness. After all, downvalley residents have been griping about the traffic for decades and coping with the construction zone for two years along the single busiest roadway in Eagle.
From the very beginning, the primary focus of the Eby Creek Road project was safety. As traffic increased in town, it became a routine occurrence for backups to spill over from the roadway onto the Interstate 70 westbound off ramp and the highway itself. By 2007, the situation had become serious enough that town staff and local Colorado Department of Transportation officials knew it had to be addressed.
“We had just made a huge capital investment in the town with the Broadway streetscape project and we didn’t have a lot of money sitting around,” said Gosiorowski. But in 2008 the Eagle Town Board agreed to allocate $250,000 for a traffic study of Eby Creek Road. Eagle County matched that amount and the state agreed to pay another $500,000 for the work.
“At that point we didn’t know that we were going to build four new roundabouts,” said Gosiorowski. He noted other possibilities included lane widening and additional traffic signals but after completing the study, the roundabout plan emerged as the preferred alternative. At that point, the project had already cost $1 million and not a single spade of dirt had been moved. The study predicted the long term solution would cost upwards of $15 million.
Two things became abundantly clear — Eagle was going to have to save up its capital dollars and earmark most of them for the project and the community was going to have to find funding partners to finance the program. So Eagle went out to find some friends. Luckily one of them was Martha Miller, CDOT Eagle office resident engineer.
“Martha Miller and I had no idea how we were going to fund construction money for the project,” said Gosiorowski. “But we knew we need to be shovel ready to take advantage of any money that became available.”
They forged a great partnership between CDOT and the town, but they also figured it wouldn’t hurt to get some other people on their side.
In addition to lobbying the state for funding, Gosiorowski became a regular attendee at the Intermountain Transportation Planning Region meetings where he tirelessly pitched the project. As a result, Eby Creek Road become the group’s top priority “At times they didn’t have a lot of money to give out, but Eagle got it all,” said Gosiorowski.
Back home, beginning around 2009, the Eagle Town Board began committing money for construction.
“When we came to the top of the priority list for the transportation region, we set aside $3 million,” said former Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell. That money remained, untouched, in the town budget for the next four years as Eagle looked at phasing alternatives to begin roundabout construction.
“It was a little bit of a leap of faith to commit all the money year after year, not knowing when or if the project would happen,” said Scott Turnipseed, one of the Eagle Town Board members who served while the Eby Creek Road project was in the planning stages. “But Tom Gosiorowski did a good job of keeping at it for the project and letting us know what was going on.”
Powell echoed that statement. “We need to commend Tom Gosiorowski’s tireless work attending CDOT meetings and working through the issues with planning.”
When the Great Recession hit, Eagle’s budget shrank as building virtually stopped. But even as economic conditions in the town worsened, the outlook for the project brightened with the introduction of new federal and state funding programs. One of them was called RAMP — Regional Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships. “That program is what finally got us enough money we knew we could do the entirety of Eby Creek Road,” said Gosiorowski.
Construction began in July 2013.
For the past two years, area motorists have watched as the program gradually took form. Construction cones and orange barrels have dotted the roadway for years, but their days are numbered.
“All the barrels and cones will be gone by Dec. 3,” said Gosiorowski. That means all the traffic lanes will be open and the pedestrian path will be completed. It also means that stone work along the retaining walls will be done, monument features built inside the roundabouts will be completed and safety rails will be placed. The only outstanding time will be completion of landscaping and that will be delayed until next spring.
“In seven years, we will have gone from just launching a study to having five new roundabouts, paths and a new pedestrian bridge. In CDOT time, that is just about as fast as we could have gone,” said Gosiorowski. “For me that was an excruciatingly long amount of time.”
In addition to the new road work, the Eby Creek Road project included a massive amount of underground utility relocation including water, wastewater, electric, telephone, cable and fiber optic lines. That meant crews put in many all night sessions in addition to the day hours.
We all maneuvered through the construction scene daily for the better part of two years, but for Gosiorowski, a couple of those construction days stand out. The first was when he walked across the Interstate 70 pedestrian bridge in the wee hours of the morning shortly after it was set in place. The second happened a few months back when crews turned off the signal light at Eby Creek Road and Chambers Avenue.
“The traffic did exactly what it was expected to do. We didn’t back up on I-70 anymore,” he said.
So a mere 14 years after he noted Eagle had a traffic issue at the intersection, Gosiorowski can celebrate the fact it is fixed.
“Sometimes you are so tied up in the work you have in front of you, you lose track of how far you have come,” said Goisorowski. “I am thankful it is finished.”
He isn’t alone in that sentiment this Thanksgiving holiday.
“When the whole thing gets done, it will be really sharp looking project,” said Turnipseed. “The town really did a great job.”