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CDOT: City council bridge endorsement would be premature

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Grand Avenue Bridge project planners are urging Glenwood Springs City Council and other local elected bodies to refrain from making a political endorsement of any one bridge alternative until the technical review process is complete.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) bridge project team continues to take public input on the two remaining alignment alternatives and various intersection and pedestrian connection options.

A “preferred alternative,” from an engineering standpoint, is expected to be selected by early September, said Craig Gaskill, the lead consulting engineer working with CDOT on the project.



That will be followed by a more formal environmental analysis and design process over the next several months, including an extensive public comment period, Gaskill said.

“In terms of process, it becomes problematic if elected officials determine what the right answer is before we have a chance to make that technical decision,” he said.



That’s not to say that individual council members can’t offer their preferences and input prior to that decision being made, Gaskill and other members of the bridge study team indicated in an Aug. 9 memo to Glenwood Springs council members.

City council is set to hear a bridge project update from CDOT representatives at a 5 p.m. work session today at Glenwood Springs City Hall.

Council is then scheduled to have a follow-up discussion of its own, including possible action, during the regular 6 p.m. council session.

“Being that a recommended preferred alternative has not been developed by the study team, we believe that it would be premature for the council to consider endorsement of an alternative at this time,” the memo from Gaskill, CDOT engineer Joe Elsen and Tom Newland of Newland Project Resources states.

“However, we would be very interested in listening to individual council members regarding your preference or indifference towards the remaining alternatives under study,” it continues. “Most important to the evaluation process is why a particular alternative is favored over another.”

Two remaining alignment alternatives for replacing the Grand Avenue/Highway 82 bridge, narrowed down from 12 original alternatives earlier this year, are still being evaluated.

Alternative 1 would maintain the existing single-bridge alignment from Grand Avenue south of the Colorado River to the intersection of Sixth Street and Pine on the north end of the bridge.

Alternative 3 would take a single bridge from Grand Avenue on the south to one of three possible intersection configurations at Sixth and Laurel, two blocks west of the current bridge alignment.

Last week, the CDOT team gave a similar project update to the Garfield County commissioners. During that discussion, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky expressed his personal preference for Alternative 3, while the other two commissioners reserved comment.

The bridge planning process and pending selection of a preferred alternative has come up in discussion in other public venues as well. Communities throughout Garfield County and the greater Roaring Fork Valley stand to be significantly impacted by the bridge project.

During a brief discussion at its Tuesday meeting, the Carbondale Board of Trustees directed town manager Jay Harrington to draft a letter to CDOT expressing its thoughts.

While the Carbondale board was not inclined to endorse one of the bridge alternatives, some trustees wanted to make sure that the new bridge doesn’t preclude the opportunity for a future Highway 82 bypass through Glenwood Springs, Harrington said. A draft letter is to be discussed at the Carbondale board’s Aug. 28 meeting.

In addition to the presentation this evening to the Glenwood Springs council, CDOT is also planning another community open house from 5-7:30 p.m. next Wednesday, Aug. 22, at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.

The open house will include new computer simulations and renderings providing more detail and comparisons of the remaining bridge alternatives and possible bicycle and pedestrian connections. Additional public input will be taken as well.

The Grand Avenue Bridge project is slated to receive up to $59 million from the Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund. Construction is not expected to begin until early 2015.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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