GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Project officials working on a replacement plan for the Grand Avenue Bridge stand ready to lend an ear to anyone wanting to talk about the potential for a future Highway 82 bypass or alternate route.The latest public open house to gather feedback on the bridge project is slated for 5-7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. Included will be several half-hour "conversation circles" on specific topics.In addition to seeking public input on possible highway and pedestrian bridge design options and options for a construction detour, topics will include a so-called "roadmap for bypass study.""It is a topic that some people are really attached to, and very passionately," said Joe Elsen, the Colorado Department of Transportation's program engineer working on the bridge project."Our answer whenever the subject has come up has always been to say, that's a separate project that has to do with mobility, and this [bridge replacement] is a system quality issue," Elsen said."So, we just want to be able to provide some information about how the city and county and CDOT can work to get some things going related to the mobility question," he said.Recently, a new group calling itself Citizens to Save Grand Avenue formed in opposition to the bridge plans, as well as recommendations in a draft Highway 82/Grand Avenue access control plan related to downtown Glenwood Springs.The group, including several Grand Avenue business owners, instead wants CDOT and city officials to focus efforts on a study to possibly re-route state highway traffic off of Grand Avenue.That would be a much more involved study, compared to the current effort to plan for and design a new bridge to replace the existing, 60-year-old structure that carries highway traffic over the Colorado River and Interstate 70, Elsen said."We have been hearing from people who say we should be looking at a bypass or a relocation of the highway somewhere else," he said. "We haven't necessarily been hearing from the people who live next to where that somewhere else might be."
The Wednesday open house is also meant for the public to learn about and offer input on some of the latest bridge project elements, including design options for both the highway and pedestrian bridges.In addition to a new highway bridge, CDOT is also planning to replace the city's existing pedestrian bridge. The larger project is in line to receive up to $59 million from CDOT's special Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund. A preferred alignment identified by CDOT for the new highway bridge would carry traffic from Grand Avenue south of the river and curve west over the Hot Springs parking lot to a reconfigured intersection at Sixth and Laurel streets.Glenwood Springs City Council has also endorsed the preferred alignment, which would remove the two-block stretch of Sixth Street between Pine and Laurel from the current Highway 82 route.Design details for a new signalized intersection at Sixth and Laurel, and I-70 interchange will also be presented at the open house.This will also be the first chance for the public to weigh in on a potential detour that could be in place for about a two-month period during construction of the new bridge sometime in 2015 or 2016.At this point, CDOT proposes to re-route highway traffic off I-70 at Exit 114 in West Glenwood to Midland Avenue. Through traffic would stay on Midland Avenue all the way to 27th Street, then re-enter Highway 82 at 27th and South Glen Avenue. While the existing bridge would remain open for most of the construction period, it will have to be closed at some point and a detour put into place, Elsen said."We do feel like we can keep that to two months, and will target a shoulder season, either in the spring or fall," he said.Elsen said project officials looked at detouring traffic from Midland back to Grand Avenue downtown, via Seventh Street and Colorado Avenue to either Eighth or Ninth. However, doing so would involve too many right-angle turns, he said.Use of Midland Avenue as a detour route would likely require improvements and/or traffic control at key intersections and driveways, Elsen said.Following Wednesday's open house, the bridge plans are to be further evaluated through a formal Environmental Assessment (EA), which is required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).That process is expected to continue throughout this year, including a period for formal public comments.A public hearing on the EA would take place tentatively in January 2014, followed by a final decision in May of that year and another seven-month final design email@example.com