Mesa County poised to complete Riverfront Trail link under 29 Road

Pete Baier, director of public works for Mesa County, describes the county’s plans for extending the Riverfront Trail beneath the 29 Road Bridge, providing access that doesn’t require users to cross the busy road. Baier expects construction to begin in early summer 2017.

Trying to get across a busy 29 Road is a little like playing the 1980s arcade game Frogger. Pedestrians trying to access the Colorado Riverfront Trail often wait for traffic to clear in one direction before skittering to the middle turn lane. They wait there until traffic clears in the other direction and bound across.

Cyclists often use C 1/2 Road, the current unofficial connection of the Riverfront Trail. They venture onto 29 Road, sticking to the road’s shoulders, before merging into the turn lanes to continue along the paved trail.

Pedestrians and cyclists should have a better — and safer — option by next summer.

Mesa County has hired an engineering firm to design a path under the 29 Road Bridge. Construction should include a ramp heading down toward the Colorado River parallel to the sidewalk on the road’s west side. Trail users can head under the bridge and back up a ramp that already exists on the road’s eastern side. Users can then take the sidewalk back north to make the connection to the Riverfront Trail.

“It fits into a long-term community vision to make recreation safer,” Mesa County Public Works Director Pete Baier said while touring the area last week. “At minimum you gain a nice, safe pedestrian crossing.”

Residents are invited to an open house about the idea at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 7 in Mesa County Conference Room 40, 200 S. Spruce St.

Paonia-based engineering firm Odisea LLC is completing the design work.

Baier said the county prepared for the project when constructing the bridge in 2007. The bridge is raised 4 feet higher than standard, offering a total of 9 feet of headspace underneath the bridge near the bank of the river. Electrical services were added into the underside of the bridge, so lights can be added for safety.

Also, the county at the time constructed a ramp down to the river under the bridge’s east side. The ramp was installed for emergency workers to access the water.

The county made the changes when creating the bridge about a decade ago in the hopes that the Riverfront Trail would connect there. Officials still are working with landowners to obtain easements and to purchase rights of way between Las Colonias Park and the 29 Road connection.

While the crossing helps make the trail connection, it also creates a safer path for pedestrians and cyclists, Baier said.

“There’s a lot of traffic on this thoroughfare, obviously,” he said, barely audible above the din of vehicles on the route last week. “The commissioners support this from a transportation safety project. People are trying to cross right now and that’s why we want to build this, to avoid conflict.”

Plans will be developed this fall. Construction is slated to begin after the spring runoff, probably in June or July, Baier said.


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