Joe Elsen
Guest opinion

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December 29, 2013
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Ramp-elevator question before Glenwood Springs Council a multifaceted issue

One of the more challenging questions the Grand Avenue Bridge team has posed to Glenwood Springs City Council is how to provide access for the mobility-impaired on the south side of the new pedestrian bridge.

This access is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and, once built, the city would be responsible for the maintenance, security and operations of the facility. It’s challenging because while the ADA guidelines are relatively straightforward, the compliance issues for outages are vague and largely dependent on case law.

Also, the Colorado statute that governs the “Division of Authority” between state and municipal governments requires the city to take on the maintenance and operation responsibilities.

There are three options: a single or double elevator, a single elevator with a ramp, and a ramp only:

• Under the elevator-only options, a dependable and reasonable backup access for redundancy would be required during elevator outages, resulting in added costs for maintenance, operations and security, as the elevator would need to be climate-controlled and open 24/7.

• The ramp with an elevator would provide this redundancy and the elevator could be “turned off” during non-peak hours, such as 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., to reduce security and cleaning issues.

• A ramp-only option would be simpler yet, and the ongoing costs would be the lowest; however, a ramp could be more challenging for the mobility impaired.

All of the options meet the Grand Avenue Bridge project’s Critical Success Factors that were developed from public input during the project planning phase and recent input from the project team, city staff, the Colorado Bridge Enterprise, CDOT staff, and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). The Grand Avenue Bridge Project Leadership Team, comprising key stakeholder representatives, including city commissions, the Chamber of Commerce, the DDA and others, assembled a comprehensive packet for Council’s Dec. 19 work session that contained detailed information on the numerous factors the council must consider in determining its preference for the ADA access.

Some of the factors for each option are: how the ADA access is provided at all times, costs of the ongoing maintenance/ security/ operations, what uses each supports/ promotes (pedestrian/bicycle, etc.), how each fits into the context of downtown, and how each affects city planning for the downtown and Seventh Street areas.

The capital costs to build the access are pretty straightforward. The Grand Avenue Bridge project funds cover the cost of the ramp option with a “clock tower shell” that could be used for a city-purchased elevator or the single and double elevator options. For the ramp and elevator option, the city would be responsible for the cost difference between the ramp option and the cost to build both the ramp and elevator. It is estimated that the additional capital cost to add an elevator to the ramp option is about $300,000.

Ongoing, annual costs would vary with the type and size of elevator based on the level of cleaning deemed appropriate, the level of security provided, snow removal, the climate control system, maintenance contracts and major repairs. Additional cost considerations for the backup access for the elevator(s) are: what the backup plan is (such as taxi or bus service) and its dependability, how the city will be notified of the elevator outage, how long it takes to mobilize the backup, how users will be notified of an outage and their options, and how this will be funded. Total additional costs to the city could exceed $1 million per year or could be much less, depending upon the services provided.

The City Council is also considering how each option affects usable space along the Seventh Street frontage area—impacts to views from the businesses along Seventh Street and the aesthetics of the options themselves. The usable space numbers were presented recently to City Council, and will be presented again at the Jan. 2 council meeting. Because of the need for larger elevator cabs on the nonramp options (to handle bikes with trailers), the most usable space on Seventh Street east of Grand Avenue is with the ramp option.

Graphics of the four options were published in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on Dec. 17. That ad and City Council’s Dec. 19 work session packet with detailed information related to bikes and pedestrian use with the options, economic considerations, consistency with community planning, public space, security and safety are available on the project website: www.coloradodot.info/projects/sh82grandavenuebridge) Look for the link on the main page.

Joe Elsen is a program engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation and a member of the Grand Avenue Bridge project team.


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The Post Independent Updated Dec 29, 2013 09:04PM Published Dec 29, 2013 09:04PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.