South Bridge comment period may be extended
November 18, 2013
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Officials may extend the public comment period for the South Bridge environmental assessment, in order for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) and its board to have a more thorough review of the proposal.
Glenwood Springs City Councilman Ted Edmonds, who is the city's representative on the RFTA board, said the matter was discussed briefly at the regular Thursday RFTA board meeting.
RFTA's legal counsel is still reviewing the plan before preparing formal comments to send to state and federal transportation officials by the Nov. 21 deadline. RFTA has an interest in the project related to issues around the Rio Grande Trail crossing that would be necessary where the new southern route is proposed to meet Highway 82 south of Glenwood Springs.
One issue that needs to be addressed, Edmonds said, is that the former railroad corridor is legally rail-banked, which preserves the right to use it in the future for commuter or freight rail transportation.
However, the RFTA board is not scheduled to meet again until the second week in January, and would not have a chance to review the agency's comments in advance.
City officials, at a special work session meeting on Thursday, indicated that it should be a fairly simple request to extend the comment period until after that time.
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"Since 40 million dollars doesn't seem to be around the corner, it's not an urgent issue," Edmonds said of the estimated cost to actually build the South Bridge route.
The proposed new route would extend from the Midland Avenue and Four Mile road intersection, around the city airport to a new bridge across the Roaring Fork River, eventually connecting to Highway 82 near the Holy Cross Energy building.
While a $5 million congressional earmark approved in 2005 has been used to do the study and some of the initial planning, construction funding has not been secured.
Project planners, including the city of Glenwood Springs, Garfield County, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, are in the middle of a formal 30-day review and public comment period, which is now scheduled to end on Nov. 21.
Pedestrian and bike traffic on the Rio Grande Trail, which parallels Highway 82, is proposed in the plan to be accommodated with an underpass.
Glenwood Springs City Engineer Terri Partch said Friday that an extension of the comment period should not be a problem, but would require a formal request from city council.
Meanwhile, a required public hearing to present the findings of the South Bridge EA on Wednesday drew about 60 people, Partch said.
Many of those who attended and offered comments were residents in the south Glenwood neighborhoods where the new route is proposed, she said. Those areas include Glenwood Park, Cardiff Glen and those living near the proposed roundabout at Midland and Four Mile.
As proposed, the South Bridge project would include a tunnel beneath the south end of the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport runway, connecting to a bridge across the river and connection to Highway 82.