City bypasses chance to get more specific on highway move |

City bypasses chance to get more specific on highway move

Dennis WebbPost Independent Staff

Mayor Larry Emery says the city of Glenwood Springs can’t make itself any more clear about its desire for the state to move Highway 82 off Grand Avenue.It can’t, and it won’t. Council voted 5-2 Thursday night against a resolution to specify the railroad corridor along the Roaring Fork River as the place it wants the Colorado Department of Transportation to put the highway.Council member Larry Beckwith had asked council to clarify a past council resolution supporting the highway relocation. He also argued that if the city doesn’t want the corridor used for that purpose, it should consider selling land it has purchased adjacent to the corridor to facilitate the highway’s possible move there.But Emery and some others on council think the city already has demonstrated its interest in seeing 82 moved to the corridor.Meanwhile, council member Dan Richardson said he believes such a move would be a mistake that would fail to address the need for alternative transportation.”I see another road as just prolonging the inevitable, which is … a different solution,” he said.Beckwith’s attempt Thursday to get the city on record regarding its intentions for the rail corridor came the same day the city was wrapping up three days of public meetings with traffic consultants Dan Burden and Troy Russ. They have proposed a number of ways to slow traffic on Grand and make the city thoroughfare a friendlier place for pedestrians and cyclists.Throughout those meetings, some city residents suggested that attempts to do so-called “traffic-calming” on Grand can only go so far, and that the solution eventually must involve moving the state highway. Burden and Russ counter that traffic-calming need not wait for a relocation that would be a long time coming.They propose building a city street rather than a new Highway 82 on the railroad corridor, with cross streets connected to it to improve traffic flow.Just as the Grand Avenue workshops often shifted into a discussion about moving the highway, Thursday night’s highway discussion frequently slipped into discourse about Russ and Burden’s ideas.Council member Chris McGovern found appeal in the consultants’ proposal for the rail corridor, and for slowing Grand traffic. She said Grand is like an “airport runway” now, and commuters going through town are “road shopping” between Grand, Blake and Midland avenues, driving whichever road lets them go fastest. She said she thinks a consensus would form in Glenwood for keeping speeds to 25 mph.”And we will say it is not our responsibility to be a 30- or 40-mile-per-hour thoroughfare for people to get through town,” she said.Proposals for calming Grand Avenue traffic include narrowing lanes, building raised medians, installing roundabouts on each end of town, and eliminating some traffic lights and left-hand turns on Grand.Beckwith said he supports the proposals for calming Grand Avenue traffic.”It’s going to be so much nicer,” he said.But the reprieve will be short-lived unless the highway is moved, he believes.”At the rate at which we’re growing in traffic we’ll be right back in the boat we are now,” he said.Earlier this year, Beckwith said council should either hold a public vote or make clear itself whether the city wants the highway moved to the rail corridor. Richardson supported a public vote, believing many residents want the rail corridor protected.Some others on council argued against an election. They contended it could confuse things on this fall’s ballot, jeopardizing the city’s chances of getting a street construction and maintenance tax proposal passed.Some of those tax revenues would fund continuing debt payments for property the city has purchased along the railroad corridor. Beckwith said he believes it’s wrong for the city to ask taxpayers to pay for those properties if the corridor won’t be used for the highway.Richardson said he thinks the highway will never be moved. He said the cost of such a project could reach $100 million.Emery has long argued that legally the city shouldn’t identify a preferred location for the highway. Instead, an environmental impact statement is supposed to evaluate the range of alternatives, he maintains. But he also believes the past council resolution in favor of moving the highway, and the city’s purchase of property adjacent to the railroad corridor, speak for themselves.”I don’t see how that could be any more clear to CDOT,” he said.Council member Joe O’Donnell held up a folder full of studies he said date back to 1973.”They all talk about the corridor. I think we are supporting the corridor,” he said.But O’Donnell said support for moving the highway needs to be valleywide. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, consisting of valley governments, including Glenwood Springs, owns the corridor.Siding with Beckwith, council member Dave Merritt said he believes it’s up to Glenwood to take a stand in favor of moving 82 onto the corridor in order to win support from others.”If you want something to happen you have to say what it is you want to happen,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext.

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