The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority has received the Colorado Association of State Transit Agencies (CASTA) award for Large Community Transit Agency of the Year. This award recognizes best practices implemented by, or a project undertaken, by a transit agency that serve communities of more than 15,000 people.

 

Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) nominated RFTA for its leadership, partnership, and service to the region during the 2015 – 2018 CDOT Grand Avenue Bridge project in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. RFTA was specifically recognized for the operation of a highly effective and successful transit mitigation service during the 85-day CO-82 traffic bridge closure.

 

“It is an honor and gratifying to RFTA to receive this prestigious recognition from our transit peers,” said RFTA CEO, Dan Blankenship. “The work leading up to and during the Grand Avenue Bridge detour was a milestone for our organization and required much planning and creative problem-solving.”

 

The transit mitigation plan was developed over a two-year period in partnership with CDOT, the City of Glenwood Springs, bridge contractors, local law enforcement, emergency services, businesses, and communities throughout the region. Prior to the closure, exclusive bus lanes and other transit priority measures were created by CDOT, and temporary bus stops, park and ride lots, and bus staging areas were secured and/or constructed by CDOT and RFTA.

 

RFTA recruited and trained additional bus operators, canceled vacations, and redeployed extra buses from its Aspen Maintenance Facility to its Glenwood Maintenance Facility. During the bridge closure, RFTA transported over 300,000 additional passengers and, in 2017, it provided a record 5.5 million rides.

 

A critical component of the Grand Avenue Bridge project was the 85-day traffic bridge detour necessary to replace the failing, functionally obsolete Grand Avenue Bridge. During the traffic bridge detour, the Grand Avenue Bridge was deconstructed and the final bridge section was built over the Colorado River and Union Pacific Railroad. In order to achieve manageable traffic delays during the detour, a comprehensive transit plan was developed, which offered 15-minute peak-hour service throughout the critical service area, and all new bus routing was designed.

 

To ensure the success of the 85-day detour, RFTA spent over two years planning and coordinating in cooperation with its many partners including, CDOT, the City of Glenwood Springs, Garfield County, City of Rifle, Town of Silt, Town of New Castle, Town of Parachute, the Elected Officials Transportation Committee (EOTC), the RE-1 School District and regional emergency service agencies.

 

RFTA provided significantly higher levels of bus service throughout the detour and developed a bus routing plan that utilized the newly constructed pedestrian bridge as a key connector. Three new routes were incorporated into its service plan to facilitate mobility and handle increased ridership during the detour. Frequent bus services were offered during peak travel times and additional drivers were scheduled to meet the demand. New temporary bus stops were identified and built, and parking areas and carpool lots were acquired. In addition, the partners launched a massive marketing and educational campaign.

 

As a result of these measures, CDOT estimates that traffic through the detour was reduced by approximately 25-30%, depending on the day. The initiative’s goal was to reduce traffic by 35% or 700 vehicles per hour. Removing one out of every three cars off the road was an unprecedented goal and required buy-in from a large majority of the general public. While below the original 35% goal, it was still a dramatic reduction in traffic volumes, and it eased congestion just enough to make the detour workable.

 

“Coordination from communities across the Roaring Fork and Colorado River Valleys was critical. Getting more people to ride transit, carpool, bike, and walk during the detour was not only necessary, but mission-critical for the successful completion of the final bridge connection over the Colorado River,” said CDOT Central Program Engineer, Roland Wagner. “RFTA was instrumental to the project; it is clear that their efforts made a significant impact on easing road congestion during the detour.”

 

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The Grand Avenue Bridge project was a $125 million bridge replacement project in the heart of Glenwood Springs, completed in 2018. The new Grand Avenue Bridge and bicycle-pedestrian bridge serve as an important connection between downtown Glenwood Springs, the Historic Hot Springs District, Interstate 70 and serves as the gateway to Aspen and the entire Roaring Fork Valley.