Much has been written and discussed regarding a future bypass or relocation of Highway 82 in Glenwood Springs. The same is true for the need to replace the Grand Avenue Bridge. The bottom line is this: the two issues are independent of one another. Here's a look at the two issues:
1. The Grand Avenue Bridge provides a crucial connection with downtown Glenwood Springs for commuters, tourists and Roaring Fork Valley communities, and will continue to do so, even if a bypass were to be constructed. It was built in 1953, it is functionally obsolete and structurally deficient, it has exceeded its design life and is rated in poor condition. There is dedicated funding to repair or replace it now.
2. A Highway 82 bypass or relocation has been a point of local discussion since the 1970s and increasing traffic and development have resurrected the discussion anew. Some have suggested a bypass and relocation could potentially follow the rail corridor, some have other ideas for an alignment. Any of these ideas would ultimately need screening to determine whether or not they are feasible, based on environmental, historical, technical, socio-economic or other factors.
Bypass and relocation planning should continue, but it will not take the place of doing what is still necessary to fix the Grand Avenue Bridge. In fact, the Glenwood Springs Comprehensive Plan clearly states the need for both: "Continue planning for a relocated route for Highway 82," and "Work with CDOT on the replacement of Grand Avenue Bridge."
The city of Glenwood Springs, Garfield County and the local community should continue constructive discourse on the bypass or relocation issue. This could lead to a bypass and relocation becoming a priority through the local, grassroots transportation planning process. CDOT is willing to serve as a planning partner through this prioritization process if there is unified local support.
If a bypass or relocation is determined to be a priority, then it needs to go through environmental screening. Only then can effective planning continue and lead to design and funding efforts.
However, there are dedicated bridge funds available now.
The FASTER legislation of 2009 provides funding through the Colorado Bridge Enterprise to address poor-rated bridges statewide. With this dedicated funding, a Grand Avenue Bridge fix is moving forward in accordance with the outcome of the current environmental study. Construction is expected to begin in 2015.
The Grand Avenue Bridge project and a Highway 82 bypass should not be pitted against one another.
Let's continue working together on the Grand Avenue Bridge project to provide a safe, secure and effective transportation connection for Glenwood Springs. At the same time, the community can continue meaningful discussion and proper planning for a bypass or relocation of Highway 82.
Let's move forward on both important issues, because neither precludes the other.
Please join us at the next public open house for the bridge study at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 9, at the Community Center. Keep in touch for details at www.coloradodot.info/projects/ sh82grandavenuebridge.
Also a separate, but equally important, issue is developing the Highway Access Code (ACP) to administer access onto Highway 82. An ACP offers a collaborative process for working with a community and reaching a balance between the transportation demands of a state highway and a community's local roadway needs.
Members of the community and property owners along the highway are invited to participate in the process through open houses, one-on-one meetings and public official meetings. Details on this process will continue in a follow-up column.
In the meantime, CDOT encourages all interested to get involved in the process by contacting: Dan Roussin, CDOT permit manager, at 970-683-6284 or email@example.com; or Elizabeth Stolfus, Stolfus and Associates, at 303-221-2330 or elizabeth@stolfusandassociates. com.
Joe Elsen of Glenwood Springs is the Region 3 East program engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation.