GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - At least three of the four downtown intersections, including Eighth Street, should be kept as full-movement, signalized intersections as part of the long-term Highway 82 Access Control Plan, Glenwood Springs City Council agreed Thursday night.
However, a final decision on whether to adopt the access master plan for the entire section of Highway 82 through Glenwood Springs won't come until the April 11 council meeting.
In the meantime, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association is planning a day-long series of focus group discussions with business owners Tuesday about the access plan, the proposed Grand Avenue bridge project and their implications (see information box, this page).
City Council's preliminary decision on the downtown portion of the access plan came after it had a chance to view a new set of drawings from planning consultants showing different intersection options that could come with a new Grand Avenue bridge, should that project proceed.
Included in the Colorado Department of Transportation's draft access plan has been a controversial recommendation to convert Eighth Street to a non-signalized, right-in, right-out only intersection with no pedestrian crossing.
Under the long-range access plan, that change would come at the time a new bridge is built, or whenever other redevelopment occurs or serious safety concerns arise, according to CDOT officials.
But transportation planning consultant Jim Charlier, who is part of a team of consultants hired by the Downtown Development Authority to look at various streetscape designs related to the proposed bridge, said such a change could have a devastating impact on downtown businesses.
"Our studies show that downtowns struggle whenever you divide one half from the other," especially if pedestrian movement is limited, Charlier said during a pre-meeting work session between City Council and DDA officials.
He said it's the consultant team's recommendation to retain Eighth Street as a full-access intersection.
Council also had a chance Thursday to view new three-dimensional virtual computer models from CDOT's bridge planning team, showing the various width options for the new bridge.
Without a southbound left-hand turn lane at Eighth Street, the bridge would only be about one foot narrower coming into downtown, the models indicated.
"It's not worth losing the left-hand turn there for one foot," City Councilman Todd Leahy quickly surmised.
Councilman Stephen Bershenyi added that any changes limiting pedestrian movement from one side of Grand to the other would not be a good idea.
"We need to do as little as possible to not restrict people from being able to move back and forth across that corridor," Bershenyi said.
Mayor Matt Steckler said the consultants' recommendation and drawings were enough to convince him as well.
"I'm going to suggest we leave all four intersections as is," Steckler said of the four signalized intersections at Eighth, Ninth, 10th and 11th streets.
In a 6-1 vote directing CDOT and city engineers to revise the access plan, however, council did agree to leave the option open to eventually remove the 10th Street traffic signal and limit access, should future changes warrant it.
One determining factor would be if the city decides to keep the one-block stretch of Cooper Avenue from Ninth to 10th as a one-way thoroughfare, council agreed. In that case, full access would be needed at 10th and Grand in order for motorists to get to the new public parking structure.
Council may also decide to open that block of Cooper to two-way traffic, which could allow for future access to be limited at 10th and Grand, including removal of the signal.