Bridge money could also be used to fund construction traffic fixes |

Bridge money could also be used to fund construction traffic fixes

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Part of the special pot of state money that will be used to replace the Highway 82 Grand Avenue Bridge could be set aside to deal with traffic impacts during construction, according to state transportation officials.

Joining members of the Grand Avenue Bridge project working group at a Glenwood Springs City Council meeting last week was Ken Szeliga, program manager for Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund.

While the Glenwood Springs project has been slated to receive $59 million from the CBEF, it’s possible that some of that money could be set aside to deal with anticipated traffic impacts during construction, Szeliga said.

That could include improvements to local street connections to help ease traffic congestion and allow for detour options during the bridge construction, he said.

Many of the 78 bridge projects in the CBEF program also include a mix of state, federal and local funds to accomplish any off-site improvements that are identified, Szeliga said.

City Council members, at an Aug. 16 meeting with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials, said traffic mitigation during the construction phase is a major concern.

And if it’s possible to use some of the bridge funds to help pay for a local project, such as the long-envisioned Eighth Street connection to Midland Avenue, that would be a bonus, council emphasized.

“We’re looking at at least 30 to 40 days of direct impacts on downtown business owners that we will have to address,” Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said.

Bershenyi said several business owners have indicated to him that they could not survive a long-term detour or lengthy traffic back-ups.

“We can’t just say we’ll do the best we can,” he said. “We have to ensure that downtown core remains viable throughout this project, or there’s no point in replacing that bridge.”

Szeliga explained that the CBEF was created as a separate division of CDOT as part of the FASTER legislation. The program brings in about $90 million per year from vehicle registration fees, which is dedicated to transportation improvements throughout the state.

CBEF projects specifically focus on bridges that have been identified for major repairs or replacement, Szeliga explained.

The Grand Avenue Bridge, while not structurally deficient, is considered “functionally obsolete” because it is too narrow to carry four lanes of highway traffic. It also has inadequate clearance over the railroad tracks and Seventh Street.

At 60 years of age, the bridge is also a prime candidate for replacement before structural deficiencies become an issue, Szeliga said.

City Council members all went on record at the Aug. 16 meeting favoring a plan that would realign the bridge from Grand Avenue south of the Colorado River to a reconfigured intersection at Sixth and Laurel streets on the north end.

The other alignment option still being considered would maintain the existing straight alignment to Sixth and Pine at the north end of the bridge.

One advantage of the Laurel alignment, according to CDOT’s project consulting engineer Craig Gaskill, is that it allows for the least amount of traffic impacts during construction.

That’s because traffic could remain on the current bridge while the new structure is being built from the north, he said. Only when construction moves to the south end would a detour or traffic delays be necessary, he said.

The drawback is that the realigned bridge, including property acquisition and intersection improvements, will likely cost more than maintaining the current alignment, Gaskill said. That would limit the amount of money available for mitigation efforts.

The bridge planning team is moving toward selecting its preferred alignment by early September, followed by a formal “preferred alternative” later in the fall, Gaskill said.

A final public open house before a preferred alignment is selected is slated for today from 5-7:30 p.m. at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. Public comments on the remaining alignment, intersection and pedestrian connection options will be taken at the meeting.

Once a preferred alternative is selected, the project will enter into a year-long National Environmental Policy Act environmental analysis (EA) and design phase.

“As we go through the EA, that’s where we begin determining what the impacts will be during construction,” said Joe Elsen, CDOT’s project engineer. “Any mitigation that needs to happen will be developed then.”

A formal decision on the bridge replacement is due in October 2013, followed by another year of final bridge design and engineering. Bridge construction is not expected to begin until early 2015.

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