Heather McGregorPost Independent EditorGlenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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June 6, 2012
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Stakeholders want to see couplet bridge option back on the table

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Three members of a stakeholders group participating in the Grand Avenue Bridge design process say state officials rejected a bridge alignment option that could transform North Glenwood."I'd like them to put Alternative 9 back on the table," said Chuck Peterson, a civil engineer and owner of Tramway Engineering in Glenwood Springs."I think they are eliminating it because politically it would be very difficult to pull this off, both in getting people to understand it and support it, and getting it past city hall," Peterson said.Last week, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced its intent to winnow down 11 bridge alignments alternatives and three roundabout designs options to four preferred alignments. One of the four includes a roundabout.CDOT will present the four finalist alternatives and the rationale behind selecting them to the stakeholders group in a meeting this afternoon and to the public in an open house this evening, both at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.CDOT has budgeted $59 million to design and replace the Grand Avenue Bridge, built 59 years ago. CDOT ruled out rehabilitating the existing bridge.If all goes as planned, the planning process will run through fall 2013, followed by a full year to develop the final bridge design. Construction is expected to take up to two and a half years, from early 2015 until fall of 2017.This week, Glenwood Springs architect David Hauter sent out an email to other community leaders calling for revival of Alternative 9. He also created a map showing details of the Alternative 9 alignment as part of his vision for moving traffic out of North Glenwood and making it a pedestrian-friendly commercial area for locals and tourists.Alternative 9, particularly as fleshed out by Hauter, uses the couplet concept, dividing the Grand Avenue Bridge into two arcing two-lane bridges, both connecting to a roundabout at Sixth and Laurel. (See illustration, page 3.) The southbound bridge would drop onto Colorado Avenue; the northbound bridge would launch from Grand Avenue."This bridge alignment is a very critical issue for Glenwood Springs, but less so for CDOT. For Glenwood Springs going forward, it's really more about land use and what provides the best opportunities. Whatever we lay down for a footprint, likely it will be there for the next 100 years," Hauter said Tuesday in a telephone interview from New York City.CDOT rejected Alternative 9 because it would require a very steep grade for southbound traffic coming out of a Sixth and Laurel roundabout in order to clear I-70 on the north side of the river and the railroad tracks on the south side, and then make a landing in the 700 block of Colorado Avenue, according to CDOT program engineer Joe Elsen.Business owners along Sixth have expressed concern about losing their exposure to Highway 82 traffic, but Hauter said moving highway traffic off that street would make Sixth "much more viable for businesses to thrive."He noted that city leaders have for years looked to the confluence area as a prime spot for concentrated mixed use development once the wastewater plant is moved out. But the redevelopment potential in North Glenwood has been ignored, largely because of the intense traffic pressure of a five-lane connection on Sixth between I-70 and Highway 82.Hauter acknowledges that his modified Alternative 9 design impacts private property and existing businesses. The two main casualties would be the Glenwood Shell station at Sixth and Laurel and the Colorado National Bank building at Ninth and Grand."We need to set them free to look at the opportunity," Hauter said of the businesses, which he believes would be viable in different locations. "Planning is not about taking away, it's about recognizing a future."He is also calling on CDOT to slow the process and give residents a chance to envision the options. Building a small-scale model of the downtown area, and then dropping the different bridge options into it would be a helpful exercise, he said."CDOT is too hemmed in by their own constraints," Hauter said. "They won't talk about condemning property and moving businesses. Who is looking at what we want this to be, if we could do with it whatever we want? We, the community, are the only ones to do that."Bob Patillo, an engineer, business owner and the designer of the Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge, also supports giving Alternative 9 a close look along with the other four finalists."From a larger perspective of urban planning, [Hauter's] ideas are very attractive. To redevelop the north side into a more pedestrian-friendly, less traffic-intensive experience for residents and visitors alike, it could be a lovely and inviting atmosphere. It's disappointing that opportunity has been eliminated this early," Patillo said.

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The Post Independent Updated Jun 6, 2012 01:10AM Published Jun 6, 2012 12:54AM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.