Welcome Change | VailDaily.com

Welcome Change

t he drive into Eagle will never look the same.

During the late night and early morning hours of Sept. 10 and 11, crews mobilized just east of the Eagle Interstate 70 interchange to place the new $1.2 million, 198,200-pound steel pedestrian bridge that now spans the highway and heralds arrival to the community. Built by Big R construction in Greeley and designed and engineered by the same firms responsible for the town’s popular Broadway streetscape, the pedestrian bridge’s distinctive steelwork and masonry will provide an eye-catching feature for the millions of motorists who drive by the community.

“As one of the CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) people said, Eagle is about to become the envy of every community along the I-70 mountain corridor,” said Tom Gosiorowski, Eagle town engineer.

Beyond the basics

Construction of a pedestrian bridge was one of the requirements for Eagle’s Eby Creek road project. As anyone who has ever attempted to bike or walk over the existing overpass can testify, there simply isn’t room to accommodate the additional motorist lanes required for the project and provide space for pedestrians or bikes. The project had to include a bridge, but the design was left up to the town.

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As a result, the new bridge’s architecture harkens back to steel truss railroad bridges and echoes elements of the Broadway monument signs.

“The bridge is architecturally nice and it is really a good fit for our community and our history,” said Gosiorowski. “The steel lattice work is reminiscent of the trusses that hold up the historic Red Cliff Bridge.”

While he is very familiar with the way the structure looks on paper, Gosiorowski said actually seeing the structure in person makes a big impact.

“It’s bigger, visually, that I had even realized,” he said. “The appearance of Eagle is going to change, literally, overnight.”

So much safer

While the bridge aesthetics will likely generate initial interest, Gosiorowski said its function connecting two parts of town will be the structure’s ultimate contribution.

He noted that one evening last winter he was returning to town in a snowstorm when he encountered a group of visitors walking across the overpass bridge. He theorized that the pedestrians were staying at a motel on the north side of I-70, but they wanted to get to a restaurant or other town amenity on the south side of the highway. As a result, they had to complete a very dangerous trek in bad conditions.

“It’s really scary. That bridge just isn’t safe for people to cycle or drive over,” said Gosiorowski.

The new highway bridge offers a 12-foot walkway and spans both the eastbound I-70 entrance ramp and the westbound I-70 exit ramp. The sidewalk network that’s planned as part of the Eby Creek Road project will steer pedestrians and bikers away from the overpass and to the new bridge.

Gosiorowski said the target opening date for the bridge is Oct. 5.

“People will definitely get to use it this year, before winter,” he noted. “Hopefully once it is operational, people will be biking to City Market as a viable option,” he said.

What’s the latest on Eby Creek Road

Just ask anyone who drives it regularly and he or she will likely confirm that the last couple of weeks have been exceptionally trying for Eby Creek Road motorists.

“We are in the absolutely worst phase of construction that we will have in the project,” said Gosiorowski.

With work concentrated around the existing U.S. Highway 6 roundabout, constrained traffic lanes designated by cones and barrels have been channeling vehicles through town. Additionally, with the Church Street access blocked, long lines develop regularly, not just during the morning and evening travel times.

“But this is the hump,” said Gosiorowski. “Things are going to start to get better this week.”

Later this week, Church Street will reopen and new pavement areas will begin handling traffic. At Eagle’s busiest intersection — Eby Creek Road and Chambers Avenue — significant portion of the roundabout pavement is laid and while it doesn’t yet resemble a traffic circle, the center portion of the plan is relatively quick and easy to complete compared to the traffic lanes and retaining walls.

The official completion date for the project is Dec. 5. And like the people who have to drive the roadway, Gosiorowski said that day can’t come soon enough for the construction crews.

“People are going to be really happy with this project when it is completed. I know that the roundabouts are going to work and I know that when they are completed, we are not going to have traffic congestion on Eby Creek Road any more.”

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