Bridge project could expand downtown plaza
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A planning effort to rebuild the aging Grand Avenue Bridge could present an opportunity for a safer downtown passage underneath the busy Highway 82 thoroughfare.
“People always talk about how Glenwood Springs is divided by Highway 82, and how hard it is to get from the east side to the west side,” Glenwood Springs City Councilman Todd Leahy said during a Tuesday open house hosted by project engineers at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
One possible outcome of the bridge redesign is a landing farther to the south and closer to the Eighth Street intersection, along with the likely closure of the east wing street.
That could solve the problem in at least one part of downtown, Leahy said.
“We were looking at what can happen under the bridge with a pedestrian plaza,” said Leahy, who was gathered at a table with fellow council members Mike Gamba and Ted Edmonds, Downtown Development Authority director Leslie Bethel and DDA board member Jodie Collins putting their ideas on paper.
“We would like to see them create as big and as open a plaza as they can get under the bridge,” Leahy said of what would be a larger, usable area between Seventh and Eighth streets.
The state of Colorado is poised to spend close to $60 million from the Colorado Bridge Enterprise fund to widen or possibly replace the 58-year-old bridge, which has been deemed functionally obsolete.
Though still structurally sound, the traffic lanes are too narrow for current four-lane bridge standards, especially given today’s traffic volumes. The bridge is also too low where it crosses over the BNSF railroad tracks.
Impacts from the project on the downtown area, both related to the bridge design and disruptions during construction, are a key concern for city leaders, area business owners and residents.
The engineering team working with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) on the project held the open house to invite comments from the public and explain the environmental review process currently under way.
The Federal Highway Commission requires a formal environmental assessment before the project can be approved. If approved, construction would not begin until 2014.
In the meantime, CDOT is going through an extensive public process to gather as much local input as possible as it comes up with a bridge design.
Close to 70 attended the Tuesday open house.
“We have heard from people who are very concerned about the traffic impacts during construction, including impacts on businesses and the net effects on the community,” said CDOT project manager Josh Cullen. “But we have had a lot of valuable input.”
CDOT is working with Jacobs Engineering out of Denver to design the bridge and help steer the project through the public process.
“We have gotten some good, positive feedback, especially with the opportunities on the south end of the bridge,” CDOT regional program engineer Joe Elsen said of the input at the open house. “That area will be a big focus of this project.”
CDOT began work on the project earlier this year. In addition to hiring the planning and engineering team, the agency created a local Project Leadership Team including representatives from city government, the business sector and CDOT.
Last month, Glenwood Springs City Council passed a resolution outlining the city’s goals with the project, and stating the city government’s intent to cooperate in the process.
Some critics have argued that the city, by endorsing the bridge project, might be giving up its opportunity to someday build a Highway 82 bypass on the Rio Grande rail corridor.
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