Glenwood Springs council postpones direction on pedestrian bridge access
November 11, 2013
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Downtown business interests favor an elevator to provide handicapped and bicycle access from Seventh Street to a new pedestrian bridge, but City Council wants to know more about the city's long-term maintenance obligations first before making that decision.
Council, at its Nov. 7 meeting, put off a request by Colorado Department of Transportation officials for the city to decide between the elevator and ramp options to include in CDOT's design planning and environmental analysis for a new Grand Avenue/Highway 82 bridge and related pedestrian bridge.
CDOT has said it can build the pedestrian bridge with one of several ramp options on the north side of Seventh Street, or install one elevator as part of the $60 million Grand Avenue bridge project that's being paid for out of the Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund.
Both options would cost about the same, between $500,000 and $1 million for the initial construction, based on preliminary estimates from CDOT.
However, Bridge Enterprise can't pay for both a ramp and an elevator, nor can it pay for two elevators, which are both options that would better meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
That would leave it up to the city to figure out how to pay for the second, hydraulics-propelled elevator, or more modest open-air, cable-and-pulley style "lift," as has been discussed.
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The city would also need to enter into an agreement with CDOT for future maintenance and eventual replacement needs for the elevator/lift option.
"We don't know the terms of that IGA [inter-governmental agreement] yet, and I would urge you to take your time on this," said Charlie Willman, chairman of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), echoing the sentiments of others who spoke on the issue.
"If you are to make a decision tonight, we would ask that you choose the elevator option," he said.
The DDA and the Glenwood Springs Downtown Partnership have both recommended an elevator for pedestrian bridge access, mainly because of the impact a large ramp structure would have on views across the Colorado River and usable plaza space along Seventh Street.
"Our goal is to create a vibrant downtown, and we look at Seventh Street as 'beach front' property," said DDA Executive Director Leslie Bethel. "It is an asset in our downtown."
A long list of downtown-area business owners, from the many restaurants located on the south side of Seventh Street to the Hotel Denver and the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and Lodge, also say they support an elevator.
Glenwood Springs resident and avid bicyclist Sheila Markowitz said she initially favored a ramp.
"As a bicycle person, I thought that was the best option," she said. "But I have changed my mind, because I see a ramp as being too large and obtrusive."
Councilman Matt Steckler and other council members wanted more information from CDOT on the long-term costs for either an elevator or lift, or possible a dual elevator and lift.
"It's pretty clear that the folks in the downtown want an elevator," Steckler said. "It's nice to want things, but we still need to figure out how to pay for them."
ADA requirements with an elevator-only option would also mean that the city would have to have a back-up plan in place for handicapped transportation across the river and Interstate 70 in the event of a power outage or other disruption in elevator service.
"That's not an inconsequential cost," Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said. "Our vision has to meet our reality, and we need to have the financial ability to support that vision."
Mayor Leo McKinney said he would like to know more about the long-term costs to the city for an elevator versus a ramp, and what the agreement with CDOT would entail.
"If we go with an elevator, we have no idea what the IGA is going to look like," he said. "This is not a simple issue, and I'm really concerned about the liability we would be taking on."
The matter will be discussed again at a future council meeting, after CDOT comes up with some more cost comparisons between the ramp and elevator/lift options.