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Schools work to ease bridge traffic impact

“You are not stuck in traffic; you are the traffic,” says Roaring Fork Schools transportation director Jared Rains.

That change in perspective -- that the situation isn’t happening to us, but that we are creating it and that we can change it -- is the attitude we’re going to need to adopt to survive the many construction projects underway. It helps to remember that we asked for them: millions of dollars in infrastructure investment for transportation and schools. We have been planning ahead for the Grand Avenue Bridge closure and for school construction ramping up this summer and continuing into the fall.

The Grand Avenue Bridge (GAB) closure and detour starting mid-August through November will cause significant traffic delays in Glenwood and beyond. We know that everyone will be affected and inconvenienced during the construction, which is why we are working with community partners on accommodations for parents, students, and staff to help manage their travel during the detour.

To allow parents flexibility with their travel times, we are working to extend hours of supervision in our schools to as early as 6:30 am and as late as 5:30 pm in some schools. In addition to offering early and late drop off options, here are a few other things we’re doing to help minimize our traffic impact:

  • Delaying the start of school by two weeks;
  • Altering bus routes to avoid construction, increase ridership, maximize efficiency, and allow students to arrive to school on time;
  • Creating supervised pedestrian and bicycle routes through congested areas in Glenwood;
  • Incentivizing carpooling and public transit options for staff;
  • Encouraging creative school-level solutions to reduce traffic and travel;
  • Carefully planning field trips and sports activities during the detour to minimize impact; and
  • Minimizing staff travel for meetings and professional development.

We hope that all parents, staff, and community members are developing plans to get students to school on time and to get themselves to work on time every day. The best option may be the school bus. We hope that everyone will do their parts not to become the traffic.

I, personally, am keeping a bicycle at our school district transportation facility on the south end of Glenwood Springs, minimizing meetings (Yay, fewer meetings!), walking more, and training to drive a school bus. If you see me in traffic next fall, I hope it is behind the wheel of a school bus.

We have ramped up communications to share more information on specific opportunities at each school later this summer. Check out our new GAB Detour website page that will be updated this summer with new resources and info. I hope that parents will stay informed, stay flexible, and stay creative as we work together to survive the GAB.

The Roaring Fork Schools are also grateful to voters for supporting a bond to fund major building improvements across the district. We are committed to being good stewards of your taxpayer dollars, minimizing the impacts of construction, and being transparent about the construction process. We want you to know what we are doing to meet these commitments.

In anticipation of increased competition for construction (and thus increased cost), the school district set an ambitious timeline for construction so that the bulk would be completed before the foreseeable spike in competition and cost. By working hard and fast, the district was able to get more for less and be a good steward of your tax dollars.

This ambitious timeline meant that construction occurred year-round. This year has already been a flurry of planning, designing, and construction. To avoid the upcoming escalation costs, construction occurred in many buildings during the school year and will ramp up over the summer. The good news is that though students, parents, staff, and community members may experience the occasional disruption or inconvenience from the construction or restricted access, the work will be finished faster than most large-scale projects.

Several of our schools and sites will be under construction and will not be accessible this summer. All of our schools in Basalt, as well as Carbondale Middle School, Bridges High School and Glenwood Springs Middle School, will be closed for the summer, and we have had to cancel all summer use of those facilities to keep users safely away from the construction zones and allow the crews to work speedily.

While the bulk of construction is set to wrap up next fall, some projects will continue into the school year. Our biggest projects, Riverview P-8 will wrap up in October, and Glenwood Springs Elementary School will not be complete until February 2018. Minor projects will continue in all middle schools and Basalt High School into the school year.

Staff and students have already shown amazing teamwork and perseverance working around construction and, in some cases, packing and moving their offices several times. While all schools are set to reopen in time for the first day of school on September 5, there will be some dust, noise, and disruption as we update and modernize our school facilities.

The Roaring Fork Schools thanks you for your support and patience during the months of construction ahead. We are excited to be able to utilize and make available the improved transportation routes and school spaces for our community!

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