Ramp vs. elevator debate for Glenwood Springs pedestrian bridge heats up
October 18, 2013
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — City Council is being asked to decide between dueling recommendations on which design option to use to provide handicapped access to the new downtown pedestrian bridge that's proposed as part of the larger Grand Avenue Bridge project.
Council may take a vote Thursday night directing the Colorado Department of Transportation to proceed with either a ramp along Seventh Street that would comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, or a tower feature with one or two elevators.
Two city advisory boards, the Downtown Development Authority and the Historic Preservation Commission have recommended the elevator option, citing the likely obstruction of views across the Colorado River by a large ramp structure, loss of usable plaza space, and resulting impacts on Seventh Street eateries.
On the other hand, the Glenwood Springs Transportation and River commissions both voted in favor of a ramp, citing among other things maintenance and security concerns that could be associated with operating an elevator.
“We don’t have to accept this monstrosity.”
Glenwood Springs city councilman
A recent CDOT comparison also suggested a ramp may be more cost-effective than an elevator for providing ADA and bicycle access.
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A team of city department heads, after reviewing the two options, recommended the ramp alternative.
Ultimately, CDOT is looking to City Council to take a position giving its design preference, which it will discuss at its regular meeting Thursday night. The meeting begins at 6 p.m., with the pedestrian bridge expected to come up around 8 p.m., according to the council agenda.
On Wednesday, bridge project officials erected story poles along the north side of Seventh Street giving council members and the public a chance to view the width and height of an elongated, single-switchback ramp.
An alternative design would entail a shorter, "stacked" ramp design with three switchbacks taking bikes and/or wheelchairs to and from the elevated pedestrian bridge to Seventh Street.
The visual image of the long ramp just confirmed City Councilman Todd Leahy's opinion that any ramp would be a bad idea.
"We don't have to accept this monstrosity," Leahy said of the impact he believes a large ramp would have on the aesthetic appeal of Seventh Street.
A ramp would also come with its own safety and security concerns, he said.
Leahy and DDA board member Jodie Collins have been busy lobbying public and council-member support for an elevator design they believe will work. It would include one or two open-air, lift-type elevators, which they said would reduce vandalism and security concerns.
It also would serve to enhance the pedestrian-oriented theme that the DDA is trying to create along Seventh Street, said Leahy, who was pitching a "meet me at the Seventh Street Station" theme for the structure in talking to people at the Wednesday event.
"A ramp takes up the last of our available plaza space, and I think we have an opportunity to do something better," he said of the elevator option.
DDA board chairman Charlie Willman agreed in letter to City Council that an elevator would be the better option.
"With a creative design, an elevator/lift will serve as an attraction and gathering place adjacent to the pedestrian streets between Seventh and Eighth on Grand, the plaza under the bridge, and the promenade on Seventh Street," wrote Willman, who also asked council to postpone a decision until the options can be evaluated more fully.
CDOT's comparison suggests an elevator would be more costly to maintain, at $10,000 to $15,000 per year, per elevator.
"The (Transportation) Commission believes that a ramp, if carefully designed and finished, presents the best opportunity for enhancing our transportation system," City Engineer Terri Partch said in a memo explaining the commission's 4-1 vote in favor of a ramp.
An elevator "had several disadvantages," she said, "including the likelihood of a frequent need and high cost for routine maintenance and security."