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December 31, 2013
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2013 #4: Planning for controversial Grand Ave. Bridge continues

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s Grand Avenue Bridge project design team continued to gather input from the community and refine its plans to replace the Highway 82 bridge across the Colorado River in downtown Glenwood Springs.

The project remains in line to receive about $60 million from the Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund to replace the existing Grand Avenue Bridge. Construction could start as soon as late 2014.

A formal environmental analysis (EA) continued throughout 2013 to study a new bridge alignment from Grand Avenue on the south to a reconfigured intersection near the Interstate 70 interchange at Sixth and Laurel on the north.

Details of the bridge design and related features, including a new pedestrian side bridge that will be part of the package deal, was the primary focus of conversation over the past year.

As the calendar turned to 2014, CDOT was still awaiting a preference from Glenwood Springs City Council about whether to include a ramp or an elevator in the design to provide handicapped access from the new pedestrian bridge down to Seventh Street.

Public debate over those two options and their respective impact on the downtown area and the greater good of the community was just an example of the often heated debate about the larger question of the bridge replacement project.

One big concern was a preliminary plan by CDOT to use Midland Avenue from West Glenwood to 27th Street as a detour during about two months of the bridge construction when the existing bridge will be out of commission.

City Council eventually convinced bridge planners to consider working with the city to build an extension of Eighth Street from just west of City Hall over to Midland Avenue, providing an alternative detour route into the central part of town. The city was still working on a design and nailing down costs for the street connection at year’s end.

Meanwhile, the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue group, which opposes the bridge replacement project, stepped up its efforts to convince state and city officials to scrap the bridge planning and work instead toward building a bypass that would take Highway 82 traffic off of Grand Avenue.

In June, the coalition asked for an advisory election to be conducted to see if voters agreed with them. Council rejected the notion of holding a nonbinding vote, preferring to let CDOT’s formal EA process run its course.

A side debate also erupted early in the year over a separate CDOT project to develop a new Highway 82 Access Control Plan, spelling out when and where future access onto and off of Grand Avenue should be allowed or not. The Save Grand coalition charged the access plan was one more attempt to keep Highway 82 on Grand Avenue.

CDOT remained on track heading into the new year to have a draft EA for the bridge replacement project ready for public comment by spring, followed by a likely record of decision by mid-year that would set the project in motion for actual construction by 2015.

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The Post Independent Updated Jan 2, 2014 04:15PM Published Dec 31, 2013 07:48PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.