Former mayor serves on bridge planning team
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Former mayor Bruce Christensen will continue to have a hand in planning for future Grand Avenue Bridge improvements or possible replacement of the aging structure.
Earlier this year, Christensen, while still sitting as Glenwood Springs’ mayor, appointed himself as the city’s representative on the Colorado Department of Transportation’s new Project Leadership Team for the bridge.
The group, made up of CDOT officials and local representatives, will be studying various options for the bridge, which has been deemed functionally obsolete because it doesn’t meet current four-lane highway bridge standards.
Former city council member Shelley Kaup was appointed at the same time as the city’s alternate to serve on the planning team.
Christensen and Kaup are no longer on City Council; the former mayor stepped down due to term limits and Kaup decided not to run for re-election this spring.
But last week, the new City Council agreed, on a 5-1 vote, to retain Christensen and Kaup as the city’s representatives on the bridge project team.
Councilman Dave Sturges opposed having non-elected representatives or someone not directly tied to city government working on the planning group.
“I am concerned that there is no accountability to us, as the City Council, or to the public in doing this,” he said.
“This is about as political a place as you’re going to see some of this work being done … it should be in the mayor’s hands,” Sturges said, suggesting new Mayor Matt Steckler should make a new appointment.
But Steckler and the rest of the council members were comfortable having Christensen and Kaup, who have both been active in transportation issues for several years, as the city’s representatives.
“This is going to be a huge hot-button issue in the coming years, no question,” Councilman Todd Leahy said. “But I’m fine with this as long as there’s a clear job description.”
That should include regular reports to City Council on the status of the planning efforts, he said.
Christensen, in a follow-up interview this week, said the planning team’s work is in the very early stages and has only involved one meeting to date.
“The project team approach is intended to allow for as much community outreach and to get as much participation in the process as possible,” he said. “They want to make sure there is a wide range of options that come out of that.”
Christensen said he asked CDOT officials when the appointments were first made if it had to be an elected official, and was told it didn’t need to be.
“All the time I was mayor I was pretty concerned about the downside to the city if they were to decide to relocate Highway 82 and build a new bridge elsewhere,” he said. “Then the city would end up with a [secondary] bridge that we couldn’t afford to maintain.”
He said CDOT appears open to the needs of the local community in using the project team approach.
“They want to work with people who have the interests of the community in mind,” Christensen said. “We need to be sure that they are sensitive to the context of those needs, and that it doesn’t damage the community.”
The bridge project is on CDOT’s three- to five-year planning priority list, with some funds from the FASTER bill that was passed last year already set aside for the engineering and design work.
Christensen said the next project team meeting will be sometime this summer.
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