Bridge planners prefer Sixth and Laurel alignment
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Project planners prefer a new Grand Avenue Bridge that would align with the intersection of Sixth and Laurel north of the Colorado River near the Interstate 70 interchange.
The selection of Alternative 3 as the preferred alignment comes after bridge project team members, including state and federal highway officials and representatives from the city of Glenwood Springs, completed their initial evaluation of the remaining alternatives last week.
“That evaluation resulted in a recommendation that the Alternative 3 alignment be further developed and evaluated through the Environmental Assessment [EA] process,” said project engineer and spokesman Joe Elsen of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
Elsen said the Sixth and Laurel alignment has several advantages over the other remaining alternative that had made it through the screening process to this point.
Alternative 1, as it is known, would keep the bridge on its existing alignment from Grand to the corner of Sixth and Pine, next to the Hotel Colorado and the Hot Springs Pool.
“By separating Highway 82 through traffic from local traffic in that area, Alternative 3 shows a substantial improvement in terms of reducing overall delays and providing better movement for both vehicles and pedestrians,” Elsen said.
Under the Alternative 3 scenario, through traffic would have a direct connection to I-70, leaving the two-block stretch of Sixth Street where highway traffic now goes as a local city street and business district with potential for redevelopment.
“Pedestrian connections and safety are also better under Alternative 3, and it appears to impact fewer historic properties,” Elsen said.
Alternative 3 would also cause fewer traffic impacts during construction, because the existing bridge could remain open while part of the new bridge is being built, he said.
A formal “preferred alternative,” which is the next step in the required federal environmental review process, is to be recorded later this fall, he said.
In the meantime, project officials will work to refine details related to bridge and intersection designs, pedestrian/bicycle connection options, and construction phasing.
The various alignment and design alternatives will continue to be evaluated through the EA process, which will take place over the coming year.
The selection of Alternative 3 as the preferred alignment is also consistent with feedback at an Aug. 22 public open house.
The open house was attended by about 90 people, about half of whom turned in comment sheets, said Craig Gaskill, consulting engineer working with CDOT, the Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund and the Federal Highway Administration on the bridge project.
“We wanted to get as many people to give us comments as we could,” Gaskill said. “And, not just what works, but why it works.”
Gaskill said the comments were “overwhelmingly in favor” of Alternative 3 in terms of providing better traffic control and access into and through Glenwood Springs, visual appeal, bike/pedestrian connections, and land use.
“This was also consistent with feedback received at a past open house in June, and multiple other opportunities for input we have had since last November,” Gaskill said.
Alternative 1 did have some advantages over Alternative 3 in a couple of areas.
Both alternatives were determined to be financially feasible within the approximately $60 million allocated from the Bridge Enterprise Fund for the project.
However, Alternative 1 would likely cost less, require less property acquisition, and result in fewer economic changes for existing Sixth Street businesses, the project team concluded.
Alternative 3 would require the acquisition of the Glenwood Shell service and gas station property at the corner of Sixth and Laurel, as well as one adjacent property.
One of three intersection options that was studied as part of Alternative 3 has also been screened out. It would have involved a connection from the bridge to Sixth and Pine.
“Putting an intersection on a bridge is challenging,” Elsen said. For reasons associated with extra costs and traffic flow, that option was eliminated.
Intersection options still being evaluated include either a roundabout or a signalized local intersection at Sixth and Laurel, plus signalized intersections coming off and onto I-70.
A plan for pedestrian access on the south side of the new bridge between Eighth and Seventh streets will also be further evaluated.
The project team screened out the option of a sidewalk built onto the bridge itself due to the extra width required and impacts on businesses in the 700 block of Grand Avenue.
Instead, a new handicapped-accessible ramp and staircase structure at Seventh Street leading up to the pedestrian bridge will be further refined.
Project planners will also be looking at whether to keep the existing pedestrian bridge or possibly building a new, wider bridge that could better accommodate both pedestrians and bicycles.
“That will be an important part of this next part of the evaluation,” Elsen said.
Another public open house is tentatively planned for November to allow input regarding the bridge design, bike/pedestrian options, construction phasing and traffic mitigation during construction.
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