Council inclined to let bridge process play out
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – City Council members shared similar concerns Thursday about some of the alignment options being considered to carry Highway 82 traffic through downtown Glenwood Springs.
But they also took the opportunity during the council meeting discussion to defend the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials and engineers who are studying the various options for replacing or rebuilding the Grand Avenue Bridge.
“This is not some great conspiracy against the city,” Mayor Matt Steckler said in response to recent criticism suggesting the bridge planning effort pits CDOT’s interests against those of city residents and businesses.
“CDOT follows a process, and yes, some of these ideas they’ve put out there are pretty scary,” Steckler said. “I can also see the advantages from an engineering standpoint.
“But, these guys are just as much members of the community as any of us, and they do care about what’s going on here,” he said.
Councilman Ted Edmonds said his intent in requesting council discuss the matter was to make sure people are aware of the process and the implications of some of the bridge alignment options.
In particular, Edmonds believes the various “couplet” bridge alternatives that would use Colorado and/or Cooper avenues south of the Colorado River to carry a portion of Highway 82 traffic could be devastating to downtown.
Creating a second thoroughfare for highway traffic would negatively impact the city’s current downtown redevelopment efforts and is fraught with other problems, Edmonds said.
Councilman Stephen Bershenyi was more pointed in his remarks.
“We should reject the idea of giving up two more streets to serve the imagined needs of the state,” he said. “This would do nothing but disrupt what has been a series of good decisions to revitalize our downtown.”
But several council members also said it’s worthwhile to include those options in the review process, as undesirable as they may be.
“I do believe CDOT has invested in this process, and that it does care,” Edmonds said. “It’s just important that we take the time to understand the implications.”
Several members of the public also weighed in on the issue at Thursday’s meeting.
“When I look at some of the plans that are being considered, it looks to me like it’s just a main bypass to Aspen,” said Dennis Bader, owner of The Flower Mart store on Sixth Street.
Businesses north of the river along Sixth Street stand to be impacted by the bridge project as much as those in the main downtown area, he said.
Especially devastating would be any alignment options that would remove state highway traffic from Sixth Street, Bader said.
“We have a history here in Glenwood Springs, and people like going through our town for a reason,” he said. “Some of these options look like they belong in L.A. or maybe New Delhi.”
Several people spoke in favor of making basic safety and engineering upgrades to the existing bridge, and focusing planning efforts on a long-term bypass option using the Roaring Fork River corridor.
“We know in our hearts what we really need is an alternate route, be it a bypass, or whatever you call it,” said local architect Dean Moffatt.
Moffatt noted that state and federal highway officials were also resistant to the Interstate 70 design through Glenwood Canyon, but eventually came around to embrace that plan.
“Many years later, look what we got,” he said, adding the same pressure should be put on CDOT to consider a bypass option through Glenwood Springs.
Mayor Steckler said the current council is trying to work with CDOT to address the decades-old issue of traffic congestion. The bridge is only part of the solution, he said.
“The previous leadership has not solved this problem, and we’re making an effort to bring some sort of solution based on the resources available to us,” Steckler said.
The Grand Avenue Bridge project is slated to receive up to $59 million in Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund money to address functional and structural deficiencies with the existing bridge.
Options range from refurbishing the existing bridge to replacing it with a new bridge, or bridges, to carry Highway 82 traffic from Sixth Street over Interstate 70, the Colorado River, the railroad tracks and Seventh Street into downtown Glenwood Springs.
A preferred alternative is to be determined by August, followed by a required federal environmental assessment and final bridge design. Construction is not expected to begin until early 2015.
In other business at the Thursday meeting, council unanimously approved plans by Berthod Motors to expand its dealership to the former Knotty Pine Lodge site at the corner of 27th Street and South Grand Avenue.
The dealership plans to expand its operations to include the new site, as well as the existing automobile sales lot and service center farther south on Grand Avenue.
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