GAPP dance: Plenty of frustrations in Glenwood
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Only two days into the Grand Avenue Paving Project, phase II, and the process is already proving a nuisance for commuters.
According to Glenwood Springs Mayor Bruce Christensen, in the first two days of GAPP II he had already received many phone calls from residents and businesses along Grand Avenue expressing frustration with the project.
“These people are very upset,” Christensen told project spokesman Tom Newland at Thursday’s city council meeting.
But according Newland, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and contractor Villalobos Construction are working to alleviate some of the issues that have arisen.
“We got a lot of good input from Council,” Newland said Friday. “And we are going to try and follow through with their requests.”
Newland said that CDOT and Villalobos Construction has scheduled a project meeting for Monday to discuss some of the issues that Council presented.
One of the main issues brought up by Council was that no left turns are permitted in the construction zone for the three month duration of the project.
Newland said that CDOT chose not to permit left hand turns to reduce traffic back ups.
“If left-hand turns continued, CDOT felt that it would back up traffic through the construction zone to an extent that it would even threaten I-70.”
But that did not sit well with Christensen who said that CDOT’s concerns with I-70 dictates everything on Grand Avenue including traffic-light timing and pedestrian crossings.
“They are running our town because of that fear,” Christensen said. “Or ruining it.”
Other issues discussed were the closure of access to 23rd Street in both direction from Grand Avenue, and limited pedestrian crossing, and business and residential access through the construction zone. Newland said that those concerns would also be addressed by contractors and CDOT Monday.
Other councilors like Russ Arensman criticized CDOT’s lack of communicating with the public the impacts of the project. He contrasted CDOT’s efforts with the Glenwood Canyon Interstate 70 rock fall and how proactive CDOT was in communicating with the public the status of that situation.
“There was minimal advance public outreach for this project,” Arensman said. “It’s entirely unsatisfactory.”
Dave Sturges also expressed frustration with CDOT not working closely with the city on this project, and called it a “missed opportunity.”
Besides the issues that have arisen since the beginning of the project, Christensen said also that there were other problems before the project started.
Christensen made a statement at the March 4, city council meeting that CDOT had rejected traffic calming proposals from the city regarding this project.
“We made several requests to make it feel more like a city street than a suburban highway,” Christensen said in an interview with the Post Independent. “But CDOT rejected all the proposals.”
According to City Engineer Mike McDill, the city proposed a raised median to run the length of Sayre Park on Grand Avenue. But, CDOT determined the request would not permissible.
According to a letter from the CDOT program engineering department in Glenwood Springs, the requests were not realistic for this project.
“This request was made without any public process, and without the knowledge of the property owners whose properties would be affected,” the letter stated.
Plus, the letter stated that snow storage would become an issue, and the proposal “appears” to conflict with at least one of the Corridor Optimization Plan alternatives.
Christensen said that the city offered to pay any additional costs for additional work, but that CDOT still would not consider any of the traffic calming items. Christensen said that this is just the most recent instance where CDOT has not agreed to traffic calming.
While some problems have presented themselves, Newland said that while it took 13 minutes for commuters to get through the construction zone on Wednesday, that time was cut in half to only 6 minutes Thursday.
The project began two days behind schedule due to a contract dispute. And while CDOT hoped to have the project wrapped up by Memorial day, it’s currently scheduled for completion on June 13, according to Newland. However, he said that the contractor hopes to finish the job earlier.
“And hopefully they will,” Newland said. “Hopefully even by Memorial Day, but this is the project schedule that is in place now.”
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