Editor’s note: An editorial Aug. 11 urging Glenwood Springs leaders and residents to get behind the Grand Avenue bridge replacement project and make the most of the major infrastructure investment has prompted numerous letters to the editor, six of which we’ve printed. Today, we dedicate the full opinion page to more letters on the topic.
NEW BRIDGE MEANS HAVOC FOR GLENWOOD
I disagree with the conclusions of the Post Independent, Gov. Hickenlooper, CDOT and director Don Hunt, all the governments of Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties and especially the Glenwood Springs City Council.
As a lifelong resident of Glenwood Springs, I wish to remind people that Glenwood Springs was a robust destination resort when Aspen was a ghost town. As Aspen became the place in Western America to display your intellectual and financial success, it grew. The social costs of Aspen’s prosperity are flushed down to the communities below. Aspen requires many workers and tradesmen and has little housing for them. This load each day from downvalley to Aspen and back in the evening causes a gridlock on Grand Avenue and filters through our residential neighborhoods.
For at least 30 years, CDOT has been aware of the traffic problems on our Grand Avenue. The solution was to nibble away at the fronts of homes and businesses that line Grand Avenue. CDOT has spent somewhere between a half billion to a billion dollars in building a four lane highway to Aspen, a dead end. All this effort without doing anything about the constriction of traffic passing through 20 blocks of the historic townsite of Glenwood Springs. I think CDOT and Mr. Don Hunt are guilty of malfeasance.
We citizens beat an attempt some years ago to build a new bridge knowing it would end any effort to build a bypass. Today Glenwood’s city government and City Council are particularly weak, and present CDOT with a ripe opportunity for a new bridge. The citizens of Glenwood who live in the historic townsite have no friends in government. It is difficult to have a viable community with 27,000 cars and trucks passing through the core each day.
The new bridge will make the pass through Glenwood seconds faster in three years, but it will cause havoc to our citizens, tourists and businesses. The 20-block route through the town core will not change much, so today’s congestion will be there when the bridge is completed, except the traffic will increase in volume.
Our only defense, as citizens, is to accept CDOT director Don Hunt’s challenge and tell CDOT to build a bridge in some other deserving community. Let us not accept this attempt to mask 30 years of planning and budget errors with a non-solution solution.
So stand in the way of the new bridge until something concrete has been done to build a bypass.
“They brought death to our hometown boys, death to our hometown.”
— Bruce Springsteen
RAIL CORRIDOR IS NOT ABANDONED
I believe that the majority of our citizens would like to see a bypass for Highway 82, as would I. The recent editorial in the Post Independent correctly stated that this is a long-term project that is not on the horizon at this time.
I do want to point out some facts about Mr. Prosence’s position about rerouting 82 onto the rail corridor. First that corridor is not abandoned, as Mr. Prosence believes. It is rail banked, which means that it must be maintained in a condition that would allow for reactivation of rail service in the future. While this may seem unlikely, it is necessary to preserve the entire corridor intact.
Secondly the corridor is owned by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, not the city of Glenwood Springs or the Colorado Department of Transportation, and decisions about it are made by the RFTA board of directors. Glenwood has one seat on that seven-member board, and the Colorado Department of Transportation has none.
Thirdly I’m told that condemnation cannot be used against a governmental entity like RFTA, so the corridor cannot be acquired by an eminent domain action.
A BYPASS IS NOT THE RIGHT SOLUTION
I am following the evolution of the new Grand Avenue Bridge design with great interest and am a bit surprised at the recent surge in anti-bridge/pro-bypass sentiment. I certainly had my doubts at first but think the current design will be a great boon for Glenwood and our downtown in many different ways. I’m excited to see it happen.
More than a decade ago, I, too, was a bypass supporter because I loved the notion of less traffic downtown. The bypass was a hot topic during my campaign for City Council back then and so I spent considerable time researching the bypass by reading through piles of CDOT files and talking to many folks around town. I found that most people loved the idea of less traffic downtown, but I’d say most folks with whom I spoke did not support a bypass once we dug into the pros and cons. Like them, I decided a bypass simply wasn’t a good option for Glenwood.
For me a bypass is like heating Grand Avenue in order to keep it snow-free — sure it would be wonderful for limited times, but the environmental impact, cost to install it, and worse yet, the cost to maintain it, would be outrageous. The pros simply outweigh the cons by a large margin.
The nail in the coffin for me was the overwhelming evidence that building more traffic lanes to reduce or relocate congestion has proved over and over again to not only be futile, but punishing to the future generations that will foot the bill in terms of financial liability, compromised quality of life and environmental impact.
To me building a bypass sounds like a great solution, but it really simply kicks the transportation can down the road without solving much. I say let’s move on.
ELEVATED HIGHWAY 82 BYPASS IS WHAT’S NEEDED
Glenwood Springs needs an elevated Highway 82, running parallel with the east side of the Roaring Fork River from the Grand/Glen Avenue “Y,” over a new Colorado River bridge, to a reconstructed I-70 interchange. It’s been several years since the last cost estimate, but it was floating around in the neighborhood of $200 million.
Instead, the Colorado Department of Transportation wants a stunningly disruptive, and largely unproductive, reconstruction of the Grand Avenue Bridge — in large part because they have only $60 million to work with.
I don’t mind Doug Aden telling the community the state doesn’t have enough money for a bypass, but why doesn’t he tell them the difference could be made up with a regional transportation authority? For a fraction of what the valley spends on RFTA (organized as an RTA), all highway users would benefit in a proportion about 30-40 times the number of bus riders.
The environment created by removing through-traffic from the middle of downtown Glenwood Springs would probably return the cost of bypass construction just in increased property values.
Glenwoodians — stop dinking around down there and do something amazing.
DOWNTOWN PLANNING NEEDS TO CONSIDER PEDESTRIANS
The bridge across the Colorado River involves many hours of planning from the input of specific interests. It will not be changed at this point.
Many voices speak. It is the planners with the money that talk. The conversation is skewed. So, live with the results, and build on what is.
For and in the interest of the citizens of downtown Glenwood, a simple mantra should hold: “Pedestrianize downtown.”
In the meantime, the new bridge will end at Eighth Street, in keeping with the rhythm of bridge progression up Grand Avenue. In that case, an extension or a new bridge in the future will supersede the business area completely, and effectively make downtown pedestrian-friendly.
As stated in a recent Post Independent article: Go with what is offered. Possibilities are still options, and don’t necessarily preclude vehicular accessibly and an Eighth Street extension to Midland.
At this point, despite awards, Glenwood would not be a candidate for Parade Magazine’s “America’s Best Main Street.”