Council seeks to clarify purpose of Grand access plan
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A proposed new State Highway 82 Access Control Plan would give the city more flexibility to deal with side movements onto and off of Grand Avenue over the next two decades than the current access code, Glenwood Springs City Councilman Todd Leahy said.
“Personally, I’d rather see us have a little more flexibility as a city to be able to help businesses decide where their access should be and how it will work,” Leahy said during a public hearing on the 20-year access control plan at the regular Thursday night city council meeting.
Without a mutually agreed-upon access plan, that decision is left solely up to the Colorado Department of Transportation, which now governs access along Grand per the state highway access code, he said.
Leahy wanted to clarify what’s already in effect before CDOT traffic consultant Michelle Hansen explained the recommendations contained in the access control plan at Thursday’s meeting.
The proposed plan does include some controversial recommendations, such as eliminating the traffic light and pedestrian crossings at Eighth and 10th streets, when and if a new Grand Avenue bridge is built.
Access plans are good, said Glenwood Springs resident John Burg. But the proposed plan may not be the best for downtown Glenwood Springs, he said.
“I am opposed to the access restrictions at Eighth and 10th,” he said. “Especially at Eighth, I think it’s critical that people be able to cross the street.”
To close that pedestrian crossing and make it a right-turn-only intersection for vehicles “would be a terrible blow to downtown Glenwood,” Burg said.
“If it becomes too difficult for people to move around, they will find other places to do their business,” he said.
The plan also recommends eventually limiting many commercial and residential properties along Sixth Street, Grand and South Glen Avenue to right-in, right-out access only.
Some city streets would also be limited to right-only, or at least three-quarter movements where left-hand turns could be made off of Grand but not from a side street onto Grand.
The other key point, Leahy emphasized, is that the access plan is intended as a long-range planning tool. It would only be implemented in specific areas as redevelopment occurs, public projects are built along the corridor, or for safety reasons if there is an increase in accidents.
Hansen explained that the current access code does not guarantee property owners along the route or local governments anything but a right-in, right-out access. Left-hand turns along any state highway are discouraged, absent a coordinated access plan, she said.
Long-range highway access plans are developed in conjunction with local municipalities and counties, Hansen said.
The plans give local officials and the public a voice in determining how existing access points can be modified or consolidated over time as redevelopment occurs or other changes take place.
City council is considering formal adoption of the access plan through an intergovernmental agreement with CDOT.
Council opened the public hearing Thursday, and will continue that hearing at its March 21 meeting. Formal adoption will not be considered until the April 11 meeting.
The latest revisions to the plan, which takes in the portion of Highway 82 south of the Glenwood city limits to the Orrison Distributing plant, will also be discussed with the Garfield County commissioners on March 18.
The access plan within Glenwood Springs has become a hot button issue in the resurgent debate about Grand Avenue traffic, the bridge study and renewed calls for rerouting Highway 82 off of Grand.
“We don’t think of it as Highway 82, we think of it as Grand Avenue,” said Glenwood resident Linda Holloway. “It’s not a highway to us, it’s our town street.”
Tom Trowbridge, who works at Roaring Fork Anglers near 23rd Street and Grand where South Grand Avenue splits off, said limits on left-hand turns into businesses should be kept to a minimum.
Left turns are often safer than for motorists to go an extra block or two and make a U-turn, Trowbridge said.
City Councilman Dave Sturges said the city’s adoption of the access plan should wait until more is known about the impact of the proposed new Grand Avenue bridge on downtown.
“I’m not comfortable that the access control plan should be finalized at this time,” Sturges said. “We have to talk about this as a main street issue. Our downtown is not just a drop-off for a new bridge.”
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