Today's column is in response to CDOT engineer Joe Elsen's My Side commentary of Nov. 12, "Bridge and bypass are separate projects."
Most of us are aware that the funding for these two projects comes from two separate sources, but the Grand Avenue bridge replacement and the relocation of Highway 82 (referred to as a "bypass" or an "alternate route") are functionally interrelated. Consequently, to proceed with one of them without coordinating it with planning for the other - treating them as two separate and unrelated projects - would be a terrible and costly mistake.
This is not an either/or proposition. Both will be needed within the foreseeable future. The critical questions are which should come first, and how each should be designed to integrate efficiently with the other. At this point, that kind of intelligent planning seems to be noticeably lacking.
So far, little attention has been given to the drastic effect that restricting traffic across the Grand Avenue bridge to one lane each way during a portion of the construction period will have on commuters, residents and tourists trying to get where they want to and need to, and how this will affect the ability of Glenwood Springs to function as a community. What will be the impact on the viability of the downtown business district and on the tourism that is such an essential part of our economy?
All I have heard from CDOT is that this phase of the project will probably last about 45 days, but knowledgeable construction professionals I have talked to say it will take at least twice that long. What is frightfully disturbing to me (and should be to everyone in this community) is that no one has come forward with a credible estimate of the levels of traffic dislocation that will be experienced during construction.
A computer simulation of traffic movement (or lack of movement) during morning and evening rush hours and throughout the day needs to be made to let us know just how disruptive this bridge project is liable to be, like how long it will take for commuters to get into, through, and out of town during the morning and evening rush periods, and how functional bus operations will be during those times.
Also, how far will traffic be backed out onto both eastbound and westbound I-70 during the morning rush, and onto Highway 82 south of town during the evening rush?
To me it seems that replacing the Grand Avenue bridge before relocating Highway 82 to convey the traffic into and through town, is putting the cart before the horse.
Like everyone else, CDOT recognizes that the replacement of the Grand Avenue bridge will do nothing to resolve the problem created by the steadily increasing traffic volumes it will bring to Grand Avenue. But relocating Highway 82 will cost money, so CDOT has come up with an expedient to defer its responsibility to do just that, called an "Access Control Plan." This is nothing but a strategy to get Glenwood Springs residents off Grand Avenue and onto the side streets to make way for the Highway 82 traffic, regardless of the effects this will have on our city.
Under the Access Control Plan, pedestrian movement would be restricted, traffic would not be allowed to cross Grand Avenue at selected intersections between Eighth and 11th streets, and the number of intersections allowing left turns off or onto Grand Avenue would be limited. Driveways serving both businesses and private residences would be restricted to right-turn ingress and egress, and adjoining property owners could be required to combine driveway entrances to cut their number in half.
If this goes into effect, it would be the coup de grace to Glenwood Springs as we know it. Among the results would be the destruction of downtown businesses and abandonment of the commercial district, the collapse of property values along the entire length of Grand Avenue, and a loss of tourism, which will affect everyone in town and consequently everyone's property values.
CDOT is asking the city of Glenwood Springs to "cooperate" in developing and adopting its Access Control Plan, virtually assuring the destruction of our city's future. This is too high a price for Glenwood Springs citizens to pay so CDOT can postpone relocating Highway 82, which its own Corridor Optimization Plan calls the only true solution to Grand Avenue traffic congestion.
Where is our City Council in all this? Ask your councilman whose side he is on - CDOT's or ours.
- "As I See It" appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. Contact him at email@example.com.