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March 20, 2013
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Highway 82 bypass likely to enter into new confluence talks

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - A fresh look at the city's 10-year-old Confluence Area Plan will likely include renewed discussion about how the area should - or should not - be used for a potential Highway 82 bypass.

A public workshop this evening aimed at revisiting the 2003 Glenwood Springs Confluence Plan is part of a larger project to update the various redevelopment strategies envisioned for that area.

The meeting, hosted by the city, the Downtown Development Authority and planning consultants from the Sonoran Institute, takes place from 5-7 p.m. at Glenwood Springs City Hall.

The confluence area includes about 23 acres on the far west side of downtown, extending from the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers south to about 11th Street.

The area, which includes a hodge-podge of existing public and private uses, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) trail corridor, and a fair amount of vacant land, has long been viewed as a prime location for redevelopment as an extension of the downtown.

Intertwined with any talks involving the RFTA corridor is the resurgent debate about a bypass, in light of a proposal to replace the Grand Avenue bridge with a new, $60 million structure and the hotly debated State Highway 82 Access Control Plan.

There's little chance of talking about the confluence without bringing up the area's viability for accommodating a highway bypass, acknowledged Glenwood Springs City Councilman Stephen Bershenyi.

Bershenyi said he still stands behind a two-year-old City Council resolution seeking to protect the heart of the confluence area from being used for a new highway corridor.

"That area represents the grandest opportunity Glenwood Springs has to enhance its attractiveness as a destination resort," said Bershenyi, who is seeking re-election to his at-large council seat against challenger Lyle Beattie in the April 2 mail-ballot election.

"It seems prudent to me to protect the east side of the [Roaring Fork] river, especially at the confluence," Bershenyi said. "I would hate to do anything to compromise that area."

The existing Confluence Plan does address the potential relocation of Highway 82, at least in concept.

The 2003 study looked at four different options for a bypass route, including three extending directly across the Colorado River from the Interstate 70 Exit 116 to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) railroad/trail corridor.

The fourth option, which City Council at the time recommended as its preferred option, involved a re-route of Highway 82 from I-70 Exit 114 in West Glenwood to Midland Avenue, then onto the RFTA corridor via a new bridge across the Roaring Fork River south of the confluence area.

"The alternative allows the confluence area to function as a key opportunity for the downtown and Glenwood as a whole," according to the 2003 plan.

However, that was before the development of the Glenwood Meadows shopping center and other newer development, which may make that bypass option less viable.

Beattie said it's probably time to revisit the 2011 council resolution regarding the confluence area, "in light of things that have happened since."

Beattie said he agrees that the confluence area does have a lot of potential to enhance the downtown.

"That area could be a wonderful addition to the downtown, and the town's park system," he said.

Any specific development plans should wait, however, until a final Highway 82 bridge solution is determined, Beattie said.

Bershenyi contends the RFTA corridor, which has been legally rail-banked for commuter light rail use in the future, is simply "not available" for a highway bypass.

That's not to say a bypass route involving an elevated highway on the west side of the Roaring Fork River next to Midland, crossing over to city-owned land next to the RFTA corridor between 14th and 23rd streets, couldn't be considered, he said.

"There is no easy way, and no inexpensive way," Bershenyi said of such options that climb into the hundreds of millions of dollars with no identified funding source.

As for the confluence area, Bershenyi said he would like to see a green belt established along the east bank of the Roaring Fork River and the south bank of the Colorado River as a way to define the confluence boundaries.

In addition to addressing possible bypass corridors, the 2003 Confluence Plan also looks at the long-envisioned extension of Eighth Street to connect to Seventh and Midland, and potential conflicts with the railroad "wye."

Beattie said it's hard to plan for any kind of redevelopment in the area without approaching the Union Pacific Railroad about possibly acquiring the little-used wye section of the railroad's holdings.

The earlier Confluence Plan also identified an initial action plan for the area, including the relocation of the city's wastewater treatment plant, which has since been accomplished.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Mar 20, 2013 01:21AM Published Mar 20, 2013 01:20AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.