Councilors favor Laurel bridge alignment
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – It wasn’t a political endorsement per se, but Glenwood Springs City Council members offered a clear consensus Thursday regarding their individual preferences for a new Grand Avenue Bridge.
In a public work session with bridge project officials, the seven council members each said Alternative 3 – realigning the bridge to curve over to a reconfigured intersection at Sixth and Laurel streets and Interstate 70 Exit 116 – is their top choice.
Two alignment alternatives are still being evaluated by the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Grand Avenue Bridge Project Working Group.
The other option, Alternative 1, would maintain the existing straight-shot bridge alignment between Grand Avenue on the south side of the Colorado River and the intersection of Sixth and Pine at the north end of the bridge.
Alternative 3 “affords the city a wonderful opportunity to reinvest in the Sixth Street corridor … and to build a unique bridge superstructure,” Mayor Matt Steckler said at the Thursday meeting.
“It removes a traffic signal (at the existing Sixth and Pine intersection), which is a major kink for [Highway 82] traffic and a difficult turn for trucks and large buses,” he said.
Councilman Todd Leahy said the redevelopment potential for Sixth Street, as well as beneath the new bridge between Seventh and Eighth streets in downtown Glenwood Springs, makes Alternative 3 the best choice.
“This would allow us to really start focusing on pedestrians, and getting people out of their vehicles,” he said.
City council had been advised by bridge project planners not to act as a body to formally endorse an alternative before the technical review is completed and an engineers’ preferred alternative identified.
The preferred alternative will be further evaluated alongside the other alternatives through a more formal environmental analysis that will continue through the better part of next year.
Council members were encouraged to give their personal preferences, and to help the working group weigh the pros and cons of each alternative.
The other council members echoed Steckler and Leahy’s sentiments that Alternative 3 would best address traffic and safety concerns.
Some members did urge CDOT and the Colorado Bridge Enterprise (CBE) Fund, which will pay for the new bridge, to adequately compensate affected landowners whose property would need to be acquired if Alternative 3 is ultimately selected.
Three different intersection options being studied in conjunction with that alternative would require the acquisition of all or part of the Glenwood Shell service and gas station, owned by Greg and Teresa Beightel.
An adjacent parcel held by the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool ownership, which currently houses Glenwood Canyon Activities, would also need to be acquired.
“This is the better option for traffic,” Councilman Mike Gamba said of Alternative 3. “But, I’ve always felt that when private property is taken for the public good that they be justly compensated.
“I’m not sure that the federal process that will be used adequately addresses that,” Gamba said. “I cannot support a process that short-changes landowners.”
Councilman Stephen Bershenyi agreed.
“The [service station] is a fixture in this community, and they’ve been here for a long time,” Bershenyi said. “They need to be treated as such.”
Bershenyi added that he still prefers an eventual Highway 82 bypass away from Grand Avenue. But, between the two bridge replacement alternatives, Alternative 3 is the better choice, he said.
Council also weighed in on the three intersection and I-70 tie-in options associated with Alternative 3. Most said they prefer either a reconfigured signalized intersection (3E) or roundabout (3A) at Sixth and Laurel.
None of the council members supported a third option, which would involve a local connection from the new bridge to Sixth and Pine using the existing right of way. That option would also involve a direct link to I-70 and require less property acquisition.
A handful of public comments on the bridge preference were offered during council’s regular session Thursday.
Sixth Street business owner Don Bernes reiterated that he believes the current bridge alignment should be maintained.
The realigned bridge option would create what Bernes called a “flyover” of the north-end business district along Sixth.
“I just view that as too much bridge for this size of a town,” he said. “This project was meant to replace the bridge, not redevelop the town.”
Another Grand Avenue Bridge public open house on Wednesday, Aug. 22, will be used to showcase several new, detailed renderings and computer simulations comparing the alignment and intersection alternatives.
The open house is slated for 5-7:30 p.m. at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
After that, the bridge planning team will do a final analysis and weigh any final public input before selecting a preferred alignment in early September, Craig Gaskill, CDOT’s project consulting engineer, said at the Thursday council meeting.
The Grand Avenue Bridge project is slated to receive up to $59 million in CBE funding. The fund was established as part of the FASTER vehicle fees legislation to fix or replace deficient bridges in the state. Construction is not expected to begin until early 2015, following an extensive environmental analysis and design process.
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