Edwards road construction begins winter hiatus this week
After very impactful summer, roundabout and river bridge are installed leaving railroad bridge work for 2020
EDWARDS — It has been a hectic construction season at the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and the Interstate 70 spur road at Edwards, but construction is largely complete, and work at the site will go on a winter hiatus this week.
From December until March, there still may be some minor work along the Spur Road, but motorists and pedestrians should not experience lane closures or night or weekend construction. Project crews will return in March 2020 to launch construction of the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge along the Spur Road.
“We have finalized our agreement with the Union Pacific Railroad so we can start to do that work,” said Matt Figgs, project manager from the Colorado Department of Transportation. “But next summer will be much less impactful than this year was. The roundabout construction was significantly impactful.”
The Edwards Spur Road project is a joint effort between the Colorado Department of Transportation, Eagle County and the Edwards Metropolitan District. In its entirety, the project will cost an estimated $17 million, and roughly $12 million of the work was done this summer. This summer’s work included underground utility improvements, construction of new roadway and pedestrian bridges over the Eagle River and pedestrian improvements. The signalized intersection at Highway 6 and the Spur Road was transitioned into a two-lane roundabout.
“It’s the busiest intersection in Eagle County, and we were building it under live traffic conditions,” Figgs said.
He noted that an estimated 16,000 cars drive through the intersection daily.
“Not being able to close movement or restrict pedestrians from getting though the area was a big challenge the team took on, ” Figgs said.
But dating back to the days when the intersection project was being designed, he noted that safety was identified as a primary issue.
“Safety and conductivity were two of the core values that guided this project,” Figgs said.
He noted that goal encompassed both construction and long-term roundabout operation, but the construction period was a particular challenge.
“It was hard to get everyone through there safely,” Figgs said. It required special efforts such as stationing flaggers to direct pedestrian during peak traffic times.
“We had a contractor — Kraemer North America — who was very focused on safety,” Figgs said.
With the roundabout now complete, Figgs said the pedestrian movement has improved at the intersection.
“We generally believe that roundabouts are safer for pedestrians than signalized intersections, for a couple of reasons,” Figgs said.
First, he noted that as they negotiate a roundabout, pedestrians only have to look in one direction of traffic as they make their way through the intersection.
“Also, cars are traveling at significantly slower speeds through a roundabout than at signalized intersections,” Figgs said.
Now that the roundabout is in action, Figgs noted that the design carefully considered the prime location for pedestrian crossings.
“We strategically placed the locations of our crosswalks to make sure they were far enough away from the circle that drivers could exit the roundabout and then look for pedestrians,” Figgs explained.
Flashing pedestrian lights have been installed at the crosswalks. “Those flashers were designed as part of the project and not as an afterthought,” Figgs said.
After experiencing a tough construction season, Edwards residents and travelers are understandably unenthused about the railroad bridge project being pushed back to 2020.
Figgs noted the construction team initially hoped to complete the railroad bridge in 2019, but it took extra time to ink a deal with Union Pacific.
“We have negotiated an agreement with the railroad so we can cross their tracks with our equipment,” Figgs said. “We call it building from the bottom up.”
That means most off the construction impact won’t happen on the roadway, as it did this year, but rather underneath it.
“Plus, we don’t have a river to go over,” Figgs said.
“We will work hard to avoid impacts to peak travel times, especially school rush hours,” he added. “We are looking forward to delivering another safe construction season next year.”
“We are starting to hear from a lot of folks who are happy to see everything installed that we did this year,” Figgs said.
Among the happiest of the happy folks are merchants whose businesses are located in the construction vicinity.
“It was a challenge for businesses, not only because of the construction of this project, but also because it impacted so many business access points,” Figgs said.
He said the new design will hopefully streamline accesses while the pedestrian improvements make it easier for people to walk to different businesses.
“It’s been good to working with the businesses in Edwards,” Figgs said. “We have been really appreciative of the business support we have had through this project. Hopefully, the end product is worth the construction season pain.”
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