County says Glenwood Springs not alone in pursuing south bridge | PostIndependent.com
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County says Glenwood Springs not alone in pursuing south bridge

Glenwood Springs officials looking for a partner on the proposed south bridge project Thursday were told they already have one.

In a joint meeting at City Hall, City Council members asked for a commitment from Garfield County commissioners to help pursue the proposed new access over the Roaring Fork River south of town.

“We’re already partners,” county Commissioner John Martin responded. “It’s not that we form a new partnership, it’s the completion of what we started out to do.”



The project would involve running a road from Midland Avenue to Highway 82. It would provide a second means of access for city residents in places such as Glenwood Park and Cardiff Glen, and county residents up Four-Mile Road.

Those residents now must take Midland Avenue into town, and officials worry about them being cut off in the event of circumstances such as rockfall along Midland. City engineer Mike McDill said the single access also makes it difficult to make improvements on Midland and the 27th Street bridge.



One past estimate for the project places its cost at $12 million, but local construction costs have been increasing rapidly, and Martin said it could end up being $20 million. One factor that would affect the project’s cost is whether the city’s airport remains in place or is closed to make room for the new road and other purposes.

Martin said the south bridge project has been on hold because the city needs to decide what to do about the airport. But City Council member Joe O’Donnell said if the county partners on the project, the city will deal with the airport decision.

County commissioner Tresi Houpt said she supports the county working with the city on the project but the county wouldn’t support it if it requires spending millions of dollars to tunnel under the airport. Council member Dave Merritt said a study has shown that less costly alternatives exist that would allow an airport and new road to coexist.

City residents voted in 1997 to keep the airport open. Mayor Bruce Christensen said if the cost of keeping the airport open became an issue in the south bridge project, the question of whether to close the airport would need to go before voters again.

“I think we’ve been so buried in this airport issue for so long that we haven’t been able to move forward on the bigger and more important issue,” he said.

Last year, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, secured several million dollars in federal funding for the south bridge project. However, the move drew some criticism from Martin and others because it involved earmarked funds that were obtained outside the normal state process for prioritizing spending on highway projects.

That issue didn’t come up Thursday, and Houpt and Martin agreed to have county staff members work with the city to update the existing partnership agreement on the south bridge project.

Christensen said he hopes the city and county each would pay an equal share for the project. Local officials also are counting on the state to contribute.

Houpt and Martin also showed willingness Thursday to have the county look into playing a role in helping fund a roundabout at Midland and 27th Street, and a traffic signal at 27th and South Grand Avenue.

Those projects are estimated to cost about $700,000 and $300,000 respectively.

Although the projects would be within city limits, Houpt said she recognizes that development up Four-Mile Road is adding to traffic problems at those intersections.

“I personally think that it’s important that we work together,” she said.

She said the county and city might be able to jointly seek state energy impact funds to help pay for the intersections.


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