Bypass proponents seek to halt bridge planning | PostIndependent.com

Bypass proponents seek to halt bridge planning

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Supporters of a Highway 82 bypass around downtown Glenwood Springs are trying to exert some political pressure toward planning for a new alternative route, rather than replacing the Grand Avenue Bridge.

Petitions are being circulated by several downtown businesses and bypass proponents, asking state transportation planners and city leaders to reject the bridge alternatives currently being considered.

“Throughout these meetings, there has been a fairly vocal group of people saying we need a bypass, not a new bridge on Grand Avenue,” said Sandy Boyd, owner of the Glenwood Sew shop, who is one of the petition circulators.

“If they do this, the momentum is lost for many years to come and we lose the chance to address the real long-term issue, which is the need for a bypass,” Boyd said.

For the better part of this year, a Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Grand Avenue Bridge project planning team has been evaluating several options for replacing the bridge.

The project is slated to receive up to $59 million from the special Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund.

Recommended Stories For You

Numerous open houses and meetings with local stakeholders have provided opportunities for public comment, and CDOT planners are prepared to select a preferred bridge alignment alternative in early September.

The preferred alternative will then be further studied as part of a formal environmental assessment continuing through most of next year.

Project officials have emphasized that the Bridge Enterprise funding is meant to address problems associated with an existing deficient bridge, not to address traffic congestion by removing highway traffic from Grand Avenue.

A new bridge doesn’t necessarily preclude the opportunity for a future bypass route to be considered, they’ve maintained.

“The funding from the bridge enterprise fund is for a bridge, and our purpose and need for use of that money is confined to that,” said CDOT project engineer Joe Elsen.

Elsen noted that the city’s comprehensive plan does call for “continued planning for a relocated route for State Highway 82,” as well as working with CDOT to replace the existing bridge.

“We are trying to be consistent with local planning through this process,” Elsen said.

But petitioners say they feel like their concerns aren’t being heard. The petition is jointly addressed to CDOT and the Glenwood Springs City Council.

But it’s City Council that should take the lead in convincing CDOT to halt the current bridge planning process and focus its effort instead on a future bypass, the petition states.

“We, the undersigned, hereby petition the members of the city council of Glenwood Springs … to reject all the alternatives currently proposed by (CDOT) for replacement of the Grand Avenue Bridge, until the future route of Highway 82 has been thoroughly addressed,” according to the petition statement.

An advertisement placed in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent Thursday by the lead petitioner, former Glenwood auto dealership owner John Haines, called attention to the petition. It posed four questions in asking people to sign their names:

• Do you feel the city and CDOT are not listening to the citizens of Glenwood Springs?

• Do you feel CDOT could be wasting $60 million of taxpayer money?

• Do you want the Highway 82 traffic off of Grand Avenue?

• Do you want the city and CDOT to stop doing what they want until they have a clearly defined direction from the people of Glenwood Springs?

Haines couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

Meanwhile, project planners had a final open house on Wednesday evening to present more detailed drawings and computer simulations related to the two remaining bridge alignment alternatives.

Alternative 1 would maintain the existing bridge alignment from Grand Avenue south of the Colorado to the intersection of Sixth and Pine streets north of the river. It would keep highway traffic on Sixth Street from Pine to the main Interstate 70 interchange at Laurel.

Alternative 3 would start the bridge on Grand Avenue and curve it westward to a reconfigured intersection at Sixth and Laurel at the I-70 Exit 116, removing highway traffic from Sixth Street.

“We continue to get a lot of good comments on Alternative 3 from people who believe it will increase traffic efficiencies and make things safer for pedestrians,” Elsen said.

Glenwood Springs City Council members, at a meeting with bridge project officials last week, all spoke in favor of Alternative 3 as their preferred option.

“We also continue to hear from business owners on Sixth Street that they don’t want to lose that highway traffic going by their stores,” Elsen said.

One longtime bypass proponent, former city councilman Don Gillespie, said he still supports a future bypass. But he’s resigned to the current push toward replacing the bridge.

“I’ll always be a proponent of relocating Highway 82,” Gillespie said, adding that he’s not actively involved in the new petition drive.

“We’ve been fighting this battle for a year, and there’s nothing we can do to get those funds switched from the bridge replacement to a bypass,” he said. “My biggest worry is still what happens to the traffic. A new bridge is not going to solve the congestion that’s going to occur in 20 years.”

jstroud@postindependent.com