GLENWOOD SPRINGS — City residents who responded to a recent mail poll sent out by the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue, although limited in numbers, voted three-to-one in favor of stopping the current Grand Avenue Bridge replacement project.
Poll respondents also voted more than five-to-one in favor of pursuing a new study aimed at removing State Highway 82 traffic from Grand Avenue and instead building a bypass.
Although the informal poll received only about a 15 percent return rate on the 4,200 surveys sent out in late September to all residential postal customers in Glenwood Springs, it’s at least a gauge of where the community stands on the issue, said John Haines, chairman of the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue.
“Based on the return we got, it does validate what we’re saying,” Haines said of the group’s mission to convince the Colorado Department of Transportation and the city of Glenwood Springs to halt plans to build a new $60 million Grand Avenue Bridge and instead look at bypass options.
“Of course, we have people saying we didn’t ask the right questions, or we didn’t ask them in the right way,” Haines said. “We just felt like we needed to do something [to gauge public opinion], and this is what we got.”
Haines said he and other members of the group will present their poll findings to Glenwood Springs City Council on Thursday.
“If they don’t believe us, we’ll say, ‘OK, then you can put a ballot out, and we’ll help pay for it,’” Haines said.
City Council denied the citizen group’s request last June to take an advisory vote on the bridge and bypass questions. So its members spent more than $2,000 of their own money to send out the mail poll.
The survey posed two questions:
• Should the Glenwood Springs City Council stop the current plan allowing the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to replace the current Grand Avenue Bridge? And,
• Should the Glenwood Springs City Council initiate long-range planning with CDOT now to get Highway 82 off Grand Avenue?
“It’s not a binding question, it’s just an opinion,” Haines said at the time the survey was sent out.
Respondents voted 475 to 158 in favor of stopping the bridge replacement project, and 517 to 95 in favor of initiating a plan to get Highway 82 traffic off Grand Avenue.
In addition to taking the survey results to City Council, Haines said they will also be presented to CDOT and federal transportation officials who are conducting a required environmental assessment (EA) of the bridge project.
“We will challenge CDOT’s claim that the bridge replacement as currently proposed will not be an obstacle to the construction of a future route to accommodate steadily increasing Highway 82 traffic,” Haines said in a memo to Save Grand members announcing the poll results.
“The EA is deficient if it does not include a plan showing how this can be accomplished without having to undo major portions of the construction currently being planned,” he said.
The group also questions the adequacy of traffic mitigation during the planned construction period in 2015 and 2016, which is expected to require a two-month bridge closure and detour in the fall of 2016.
The new bridge is to be built with money from Colorado’s special Bridge Enterprise Fund, which is designated for fixing or replacing bridges that have been deemed functionally or structurally deficient.
Although structurally sound at this time, the Grand Avenue Bridge is considered functionally obsolete because it is too narrow to carry four lanes of highway traffic, and does not have the required amount of clearance over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and Seventh Street.
A study is currently being completed that calls for replacing the bridge on a new curved alignment from Grand Avenue on the south to a reconfigured interchange at Interstate 70 and the intersection of Laurel and Sixth streets.
The new alignment would remove Highway 82 from the small section of Sixth Street between Laurel and Pine. A draft EA is expected to be completed soon after the first of the year.