GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - A Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) planning effort, begun in late 2011, to either repair or replace the aging Grand Avenue Bridge on State Highway 82 led to some key decisions in 2012, along with reviving some of the same old Glenwood Springs traffic debates.
The project is in line to receive $59 million in Colorado Bridge Enterprise funds. Construction is not expected to begin until late 2014 or early 2015, following a formal Environmental Assessment and bridge design process.
After numerous public input sessions, meetings with local stakeholders and elected officials, and an independent engineering review, CDOT's Grand Avenue Bridge project team eventually narrowed more than a dozen alternatives down to a preferred new bridge alignment.
Known as Alternative 3, the new alignment proposes to keep the bridge on Grand Avenue from downtown Glenwood Springs at the south end.
From there, instead of following the existing straight alignment to Sixth and Pine, the new bridge would curve west, spanning Seventh Street, the railroad tracks, the Colorado River, Interstate 70 and the Hot Springs parking lot. The north end of the bridge would land at a reconfigured intersection at Sixth and Laurel streets, near the I-70 interchange.
In addition to providing a more direct link from Highway 82 to I-70 with fewer turns, the new alignment would remove highway traffic from the Sixth Street business district.
That opens the possibility for redevelopment of two blocks of Sixth Street into a more pedestrian-friendly extension of downtown. It would, however, require CDOT to acquire the Glenwood Shell gas and service station and another adjacent commercial property.
While the new bridge plan earned the formal support of Glenwood Springs City Council and at least verbal support from the Garfield County commissioners, critics have assailed the plan as short-sighted.
Over the summer, petitions began circulating around downtown businesses asking CDOT and local officials to halt planning for a new bridge. Instead, petitioners want to focus efforts on finding a new Highway 82 route through Glenwood Springs, taking the thoroughfare off of Grand Avenue.
This fall, the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue coalition formed. The group argued to City Council that the combination of a new bridge on Grand Avenue and recommendations contained in CDOT's draft Highway 82 Access Control Plan would destroy downtown Glenwood and eliminate the possibility of a future re-route or bypass.
City officials and the Downtown Development Authority support the bridge plan, and are still weighing an access control recommendation to do away with two downtown traffic signals, including at Eighth and Grand, and limit vehicle and pedestrian movements. The Access Control Plan is to be further discussed and considered for adoption in early spring 2013.
Meanwhile, members of the Save Grand Avenue group have pledged to put up candidates to run for three city council seats that will be up for election in April. Legal action to stop CDOT's bridge planning has also been discussed.