City staff urges proceeding with 8th Street project
Post Independent Staff
City staff members are recommending to a hesitant Glenwood Springs City Council that it proceed with the $4 million Eighth Street extension project.
They say a number of planning documents in the late 1990s and earlier part of this decade all have deemed the project to be important.
Some council members questioned the worth of the plan in December, a month after voters narrowly passed a half-cent tax that supporters said could be used partly to pay for the extension. Voters a year earlier agreed to let the city borrow money for projects including Eighth Street.
Extending Eighth Street to the existing bridge over the Roaring Fork River would provide a more direct connection between downtown and the Glenwood Meadows area, via Midland Avenue.
Council member Chris McGovern believes it only would make it easier for commuters to get through town, and for shoppers to get to Glenwood Meadows, to the detriment of downtown. Mayor Bruce Christensen also admitted to having mixed feelings about the idea.
McGovern noted that most council members have been on council only two years, and have never discussed the project.
But in a memo to council this week, city manager Jeff Hecksel and several department managers said several plans, the last in 2003, envisioned going forward with the project.
Initially, they said, the city contemplated the idea all the way back in 1887. More recently, it was included in the following:
– the city’s comprehensive plan, in 1998;
– the downtown development plan, in 2002;
– the long-range transportation plan, in 2003;
– the redevelopment strategy for the confluence area of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers, in 2003.
Hecksel said probably hundreds of people were involved in developing those plans, and city staff members think they should be followed unless there is good reason to change course.
“It’s pretty hard unless circumstances have changed dramatically to say ‘I don’t think that we should do that anymore,'” he said.
But he also thinks council should be commended for asking whether it should proceed with the project.
“Isn’t it reasonable and prudent to make sure you do the right thing before you spend $4 million? I would say yeah,” Hecksel said.
He also said that what some people may see as reasons for building the extension, others might see as arguments against it.
For example, the staff memo points out that the project probably would disperse traffic over more of the downtown area. That might please people concerned about backups on heavily used streets. Then again, McGovern believes it would turn Eighth Street into an unpleasant thoroughfare.
Some supporters of the project have said the city would be going back on its word to voters if it doesn’t go forward with the project. Also, as part of the Glenwood Meadows development agreement, the city had indicated to the developers that the 8th Street extension would be completed.
In other business today, City Council is scheduled:
n to hold a morning work session at 11 a.m. to prepare for the evening meeting.
– to hold a 5 p.m. work session on water and wastewater rates and the city employee compensation plan.
Council’s regular meeting will begin at 7 p.m. All meetings will be held at council chambers, 101 W. 8th St.
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The Glenwood Springs-Rifle sports rivalry goes way back for GSHS baseball coach and former Demons multi-sport student-athlete Eric Nieslanik.