Getting around Glenwood Springs can be tricky in places. The main bridge on Grand Avenue across town is narrow. And intersections getting on and off Interstate 70 can be confusing. Plus, the bridge isn't safe… that's according to the Colorado Department of Transportation, or CDOT. So a new bridge and interchange are in the works.
Getting in and out of Glenwood Springs from the interstate can be a little hair raising. And that's mainly because of one gigantic intersection. Marianne Virgili is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Glenwood Chamber of Commerce.
“We call that malfunction junction. It’s hard to know which way to go, it's very confusing for first time visitors, even for people who have been here a couple of times.”
That's at 6th and Laurel, where there's a gas station and lots of other businesses. Craig Gaskill is in charge of design for the new project… which will likely get rid of that tricky spot.
“It's really not a complex intersection, but there is a lot of traffic that runs through there, and it's actually hard to get through from some of the side roads because there is just so much continuous traffic all day long.”
Gaskill is with the firm Tsiouvaras Simmons Holderness, based in Denver. The idea is to get rid of malfunction junction by having a new bridge that starts at the top of south Glenwood… then swoops over to the western side of north Glenwood.
"The new bridge is going to still connect to downtown Glenwood at about 8th Street. But as it goes cross the Roaring Fork River to the North, it'll connect directly with the interchange at I-70."
With a turn-off to access businesses and Hot Springs near where the bridge currently ends. There’s been some controversy about whether the new bridge and interchange with I-70 could mean too much construction… making it hard for businesses nearby to make it financially. That is especially true for businesses downtown, right along the existing Grand Avenue Bridge. Gaskill says the plans are put together so that a new structure wouldn't have a big impact on those storefronts.
"One of the big drivers early on was to minimize the width of the bridge downtown as much as we can so we don't encroach further upon properties on both sides. One of the trade offs was to not put a sidewalk across the bridge, cause that actually made a wider bridge downtown."
In the end, the bridge will be a little wider. And there'll be a new pedestrian bridge to make sure people walking and riding bikes can easily get from one side of the river to the other.
"Part of our project is make that a more open, inviting, lighted environment, particularly underneath the new Grand Ave bridge, and to provide better connections to both ends. And it'll be a wider pedestrian bridge as well."
And designed to mesh with a separate effort to improve downtown. To make it all happen, Gaskill says there’s some unusual strategy involved. Essentially construction workers will build the new Grand Avenue bridge right next to the old one.
“Once the bridge is actually built, then they'll take down the existing bridge and slide the new bridge in place, then open it back up again."
A high stakes endeavor that'll have to be done really carefully.
"It'll be something actually worth going to watch, because it's a big structure, and it's not often you see a big structure that's kind of pushed into place, particularly over the river and I-70 as they do this."
And it would limit major detours to only two months, at least as projected. Chamber President and CEO Marianne Virjili believes keeping road closures to a minimum... will lessen the impact on local shops and services.
"I think that there are ways to mitigate that and the Chamber is certainly looking forward to partnering with businesses and finding ways to mitigate the construction process."
But before all this can happen, Gaskill's firm has to finalize the designs and complete the Environmental Assessment. If all goes as planned, preliminary construction could begin-next spring and the entire bridge could be finished by the end of 2017.