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April 11, 2013
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Highway access plan before council for decision

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - A proposed State Highway 82 Access Control Plan could be tabled until a final decision is made about the replacement of the Grand Avenue bridge and prospects for a bypass route determined, state transportation officials said during a recent town hall forum.

But that would leave the more-stringent, less-flexible state highway access code to govern access permits in the meantime for the roughly two-and-a-half-mile stretch of Highway 82 than runs through Glenwood Springs.

"I would hope that you wouldn't do that," said Dan Roussin, access permit manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation, who has been working with city officials to develop the access control plan.

"Taking it off the table means losing opportunities," said Roussin, who was one of four panelists at the special "Myths, Realities and Opportunities" forum sponsored by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association on April 2.

The forum focused on the debate around the proposed $60 million replacement of the Grand Avenue Bridge and the separate but related access plan, as well as what it would take to do a bypass study.

"The plan is not for CDOT, it's for your town," he said. "Once you put a plan on the shelf or delay it, you have to restart it ... [which] takes resources, time, money and effort to have a productive plan."

Glenwood Springs City Council will take up consideration of the controversial access plan again tonight, and is expected to make a decision whether to adopt or reject it, or postpone a decision.

The regular council meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Glenwood Springs City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St.

City Engineer Terri Partch, who worked with CDOT and its consultants in developing the plan, is recommending that the city sign an agreement with CDOT to implement the new, long-term access plan.

"The access plan allows the city to be involved and to help determine the access points in the city," Partch wrote in a memo to council members and other city staff.

The plan helps to address traffic congestion on Grand Avenue and on side residential streets by keeping traffic moving and keeping through traffic on Grand, instead of taking side streets to try to get through town faster, she said.

Free-flowing traffic also helps maintain the customer base for downtown businesses, and the access plan addresses several safety concerns along Grand, Partch said.

At City Council's direction, the draft access plan was revised to maintain full traffic and pedestrian movements and signals at Eighth, Ninth and 11th streets in the downtown area.

An earlier recommendation called for removing the traffic signal and pedestrian crossing at Eighth Street, if and when a new bridge is built.

A new condition for the future removal of the 10th Street traffic signal and pedestrian crossing has also been added. It would hinge on the city deciding to open Cooper Avenue between Ninth and 10th streets to two-way traffic for easier access to the new city parking garage, which is being considered.

Elsewhere along Grand Avenue, the access plan recommends areas where private and public accesses should be consolidated, removed or made right-in, right-out only.

"There are triggers that can change the plan," Roussin said during last week's forum, in answer to a question about the plan's flexibility over time.

He also re-emphasized that the various recommendations in the plan would only be implemented if significant redevelopment of a particular area occurs, or if major safety concerns arise.

"If there is no development, we have no implementation," Roussin said. "If nothing happens, nothing happens."

But members of the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue group continue to push for council to reject the plan, saying it is premature until the bridge and proposed bypass studies are complete.

The group has been running ads this week encouraging the public to show up at tonight's meeting asking council to turn down the access plan.

John Haines, representing the Save Grand group at last week's forum, said that traffic and noise along Grand Avenue makes "being downtown in Glenwood not nice."

"We want to take traffic off Grand Avenue," Haines said. "This is a regional problem, it's not a Glenwood Springs problem."

jstroud@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Apr 11, 2013 12:32AM Published Apr 11, 2013 12:31AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.