Glenwood commissioners not eager to resume South Bridge partnership |

Glenwood commissioners not eager to resume South Bridge partnership

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

A Garfield County commissioner would like to reverse the county’s earlier decision to abandon the idea of the South Bridge project.

“A lot of people spent a lot of hours on this,” Commissioner Tresi Houpt said, referring to the fact that some $840,000 has been spent studying the concept so far, out of $1.2 million budgeted for the planning effort to create an alternate route out of town to the south.

But Houpt’s fellow commissioners are not in agreement, and a decision on the issue was postponed this week.

“I don’t see where the money is coming from to complete this,” declared Commissioner Mike Samson, referring to the total price tag for the project, which is estimated to be $20 to $30 million.

And Commissioner John Martin said the scope of the project needs to be rethought, to include ideas on building a larger and more effective bypass route to get traffic away from Grand Avenue and the business district in Glenwood Springs.

“We need to go ahead and look at what really needs to be done,” Martin argued. “It needs more than one bridge and it needs more than one road.”

The South Bridge Project was originally conceived as a way to provide a critical second southern route out of town.

Although the bridge most likely would be located in Garfield County, it would be designed to connect Highway 82 with the western bank of the Roaring Fork River and the South Glenwood Springs neighborhoods.

According to reports, it was formally intended for “emergency evacuation and emergency access” and “local land use access.” The planning effort was prompted in part by official concerns about access to, and possible evacuation of the West Bank, Four Mile and nearby parts of south Glenwood Springs during the Coal Seam Fire of 2002.

But the project generated considerable resistance from residents in the Cardiff Glen and Park West subdivisions, who would feel the greatest impact from construction of a new bridge near their neighborhoods.

Close to two years of planning went into the project, whittling down numerous options to a final list of three.

Those three were to be included in a formal Environmental Assessment (EA), but everything was put on hold after the Garfield County commissioners and Glenwood City Council agreed late last year not to move forward with the assessment.

Recently, the city has revived its intention to move ahead with the EA, and has asked the county to agree to come up with the balance of $200,000 in county funds originally committed to the project as part of a city-county partnership.

To date, according to Commissioner John Martin, the county has spent approximately $89,000 of that amount.

Houpt, whose district includes the neighborhoods in south Glenwood, told Martin and Samson, “I’m sorry you’re not understanding the critical nature of this development. We’re stopping a process mid-stream.”

She said the need for some kind of alternate way out of town to the south will come up again, and to put the matter off is “really wasteful.”

Samson, after declaring, “I can’t see any sense in going forward with this,” suggested the commissioners table the matter until after talks with the Colorado Department of Transportation about the options facing the city and the county.

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