Planning for the worst is a top priority for the Glenwood Springs Engineering Department, City Manager Debra Figueroa told city council Thursday.
City Engineer Terri Partch said city staff began working with the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration in the fall of 2021 to create several evacuation plans for the city and West Glenwood in case of natural disaster.
As he was dubbed the Fire Evacuation Plan, Partch explained a three-pronged approach to evacuating the city and redirecting traffic in the event of a natural disaster deemed to pose a significant threat to the population as a whole.
The first part of the plan revolves around the construction of access line breaks, asphalt strips for emergency use only, connecting US Highway 6 to Interstate 70 at two highway intersections 6: Storm King Road and West First Street.
During events like the 2020 Mile Marker No. 111 fire, traffic trying to enter the freeway from Highway 6 creates a bottleneck that can affect the entire city, Partch said.
Access line breaks could allow emergency crews to direct traffic directly onto Interstate 70 as well as create an emergency turnaround point for interstate traffic entering Glenwood Springs from the west or ballast.
Partch said the access line cuts were awaiting approval from CDOT and FHWA, but she didn’t anticipate any hangups. City staff could install the breaks by summer if approved by both agencies.
Ahead of the update, the Post Independent contacted CDOT about its role in planning the evacuation. CDOT spokeswoman Elise Thatcher said CDOT staff did not individually comment on evacuation planning during the process; however, Thatcher provided context on the process via email.
“Representatives from CDOT’s Engineering, Traffic and Maintenance teams are reviewing and evaluating the plan,” Thatcher wrote.
“In reviewing the plan, CDOT team members will try to catch any potential fatal flaws early, to help the City of Glenwood Springs navigate the process so the city is successful.”
The second and third prongs of Partch’s evacuation strategies rely on creating plans to manage traffic inside and outside the city limits during emergency events.
A traffic incident management (TIM) plan, which focuses on redirecting traffic within city limits, is the first step, Partch said. Glenwood Springs is working with Patrick Chavez, CDOT’s statewide TIM coordinator, to identify a group of key personnel to decide where traffic can be stopped to facilitate emergency traffic flows. The process could take up to two years, but Partch said she hopes it can be completed within a year.
Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson said the TIM plan was key to handling emergencies in the future.
“It’s not just for fire, it’s really an all-hazards plan,” Tillotson said. “If I’m going to block the freeway today, I’m going to jail.”
With the state’s stamp of approval on the city’s TIM plan, he said the city’s first responders can work with CDOT and state law enforcement to address the dangers of emergency traffic.
Once the TIM plan is finalized and approved, city staff could begin work on the traffic emergency management plan, which deals with traffic management outside city limits, she explained.
Figueroa said city staff are currently focused on the challenges posed by the evacuation of West Glenwood, but the goal of the planning process is to eventually address the evacuation of Glenwood Springs as a whole.
“We think it’s essential for the city,” Figueroa said. “It’s the number one priority for our engineering team. »
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at [email protected]