Commissioners want to reopen talks on Glenwood Springs’ South Bridge project
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The Garfield County commissioners want to reopen talks with the Glenwood Springs City Council about what to do regarding the controversial South Bridge project, after getting an earful of complaints about the current project plans from several property owners.
At the heart of the complaints, and the county commissioners’ concern, is a recent decision to renew consideration of one of the three alternative routes for the road and the bridge, called “Option 5,” which has angered a number of landowners in the area.
The proposed South Bridge project is to provide a critical second route connecting Highway 82 and the western side of the Roaring Fork River with the South Glenwood Springs area, to improve emergency evacuation and emergency service access, and local land use access.
Two years of meetings, consultant reports and other input has led to the identification of three basic alternatives, each of which would cost about $30 million and all of which involve routing traffic onto Midland Avenue southbound on the western side of the river.
Two of the options would leave Midland Avenue south of the Four Mile Road junction, cross under the Glenwood Springs airport runway, and then over the river to meet Colorado Highway 82 in the vicinity of the Holy Cross Energy facility.
Option 5, however, would cross the river at the site of the old Cardiff Bridge, north of the Three Mile Road intersection, and meet the highway south of the Rosebud Cemetery. This option was thrown out as impractical at one point, but recently was added back into the list of options that are to be evaluated as part of a federally mandated environmental assessment. The EA is needed because most of the money for the project is to come from federal sources.
“I have been very skeptical of this process,” said Chris Steuben, owner of property that would be traversed by Option 5 if it were built.
When Commissioner Tresi Houpt noted that any of the alternatives are bound to place “an undue burden” on some landowners in the area, Steuben shot back that Option 5 not only would hurt a lot of landowners, but “it does not meet the NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] standards [that govern the EA process]. … It does not meet purpose and need.”
As for doing harm to property owners, he continued, “You’re going to injure more or less … and that’s what you have to choose, is the fewest.”
Steuben argued that Option 5 is in the same “hazard area” concerning wildfires and other disasters as the existing Sunlight Bridge, and so does not provide an adequate emergency route out of town to the south, a point that was conceded by the commissioners.
Another area property owner, David Paulson, questioned why “an option that everybody seems to think is not a viable solution” is still on the table.
Supporting Paulson, Steuben said his neighbor wants to sell his property but, with Option 5 hanging over him, “he has to disclose that there might be a bridge at his door … 18,000 cars in his backyard.”
Houpt, seemingly swayed by the dissent, called the testimony from the property owners “new information” that was not voiced at a recent meeting with the City Council. She suggested that the commissioners reopen dialogue with the council to see about eliminating Option 5, and the agreement to do so was greeted by loud applause from several in the audience.
Houpt, however, declared that “I feel as if it’s very important that you study different alternatives. These discussions … take a long time,” and stressed, “We’re not closing the door on what we decided the other evening” at the talk with the City Council.
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