Dual efforts focus on bridge debate | PostIndependent.com

Dual efforts focus on bridge debate

John StroudPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
An architectural rendering depicts an expanded pedestrian plaza beneath the new Grand Avenue Bridge in downtown Glenwood Springs.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A special “town hall” session that just happens to coincide with the city council election next Tuesday will focus on one of the most hotly debated political issues in Glenwood Springs these days: Grand Avenue, traffic control and the prospects for a new bridge across the Colorado River.The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) are teaming up to sponsor a town hall forum, titled “Grand Avenue Bridge: Myths, Realities & Opportunities,” at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 2 at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.Also, from 5-7:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Hotel Denver, the DDA is hosting an open house to launch its new initiative for the coming year, called “Vision Glenwood.” The open house will take place in the loft meeting room at the Hotel Denver.The DDA has assembled a team of consultants, including architects, urban planners, traffic planners and engineers, to come up with a vision for redeveloping the downtown area in conjunction with the bridge project.Team members will be on hand to share some conceptual ideas, through a series of sketches, for the various streetscape, parking, intersection design and pedestrian improvements that are being talked about in relation to the new bridge.The DDA’s planning effort focuses on the section of Grand Avenue between Seventh and Ninth streets, including the area under the proposed new bridge that has been proposed for an expanded pedestrian plaza.It also envisions a Seventh Street promenade and riverfront walkway, plus redevelopment opportunities north of the river along Sixth Street where a new pedestrian bridge will touch down.Meanwhile, the April 2 town hall meeting will be in follow-up to a day-long series of focus group meetings that took place yesterday.Multiple sessions, hosted by chamber officials, invited local business and property owners and the general public to ask questions and share their concerns about the proposed bridge replacement and its potential impacts, as well as the opportunities.”The chamber’s objective in this is to provide businesses and the public with accurate information about the bridge project,” said Michael McCallum, chairman of the Chamber Resort Association board. “We want to provide facts and information to help people understand the issues, and to explore solutions and opportunities.”The effort is also an extension of a chamber-hosted panel discussion back in January that invited project officials from the Colorado Department of Transportation and others to help explain the process of planning for a new bridge. The proposed new bridge is now the subject of an environmental assessment that is required before a final decision can be made on the $59 million project, which doesn’t call for construction until 2015.McCallum said the January forum effort came up a little short in terms of allowing people to get their questions answered and gain a better understanding of how a new bridge on the proposed new alignment from Grand to Sixth and Laurel would look.”We felt like it was a little too much of the experts and engineers talking about the process and how and when things would happen,” he said. “We didn’t feel like there was enough opportunity for input from the community, so that people could have their concerns heard.”The chamber was involved as part of the stakeholder group CDOT used to help guide the bridge planning, McCallum said. It’s important now that the bridge plans are better defined to let people have their say in another forum, he said.”People were involved through that part of the process, but it’s hard to get people to give input until they see something they don’t like,” McCallum said of concerns that the proposed bridge will be too big and out of character with downtown Glenwood Springs.He said the town hall meeting is also meant to help to dispel some of the “myths and half-truths” about the bridge project and the separate, but inter-twined Highway 82 Access Control Plan.”We just felt like it was time to get as much public input as we can facilitate that those working on the project can use, and to get as much factual information out as possible,” McCallum said.The April 2 meeting will be facilitated by Clark Anderson, director of the Western Colorado Legacy Program for the Sonoran Institute in Glenwood Springs.Panelists will include Joe Elsen, CDOT’s Grand Avenue Bridge project engineer; CDOT Traffic Program Manager Zane Znamenacek, who will speak to the access control plan; Jim Charlier, president of Charlier Associates and one of the DDA’s consultants working on the downtown and confluence-area planning projects; and John Haines, chairman of “Citizens to Save Grand Avenue,” a group of citizens who propose to realign Highway 82 away from Grand Avenue.jstroud@postindependent.com

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