Glenwood Springs councilors approve tunnel design for South Bridge Project
Shortened airport runway still on the table pending study results
Glenwood Springs City Council voted Thursday for a South Bridge option that would go under the city’s airport and avoid shortening the runway, which is projected to add at least $6 million to the overall cost.
Mayor Jonathan Godes, Charlie Willman and Paula Stepp voted against the motion, which passed 4-3.
That brings the total estimated cost to $56 million, but the other design option that would remove a portion of the runway on the southern end isn’t off the table completely.
A motion to analyze the second option by conducting an airspace study and track the number of flights over the course of several months was also approved during Thursday’s meeting with Councilor Tony Hershey being the lone opposing vote.
The decision to go through with the tunnel option depends on whether the city can secure funding from other sources.
Councilor Shelley Kaup made the motion to go forward with the tunnel only if the additional cost doesn’t come out of the city’s pocket.
Now city officials are tasked with going after partnership funding and will make funding requests to Garfield County and seek any other grant opportunities available.
The city has already applied for a $31 million FEMA grant.
“If we do not get the funding I propose we put the question to the voters,” Kaup said, who made the motion which was approved with a 4-3 vote.
“I feel like the alternatives that are put forth for shortening the runway are kind of speculative at best at this point. We don’t have studies that show they will work, but we do know they’ll negatively impact the airport,” Kaup added.
The proposed project route would begin at South Midland Avenue and Four Mile Road, where it would follow Airport Road before tunneling below the airport’s runway. The South Bridge would then cross the Roaring Fork River before connecting to Colorado Highway 82.
Councilor Tony Hershey voted in favor of the tunnel, despite being in opposition of that option a week ago.
Hershey said he’s never received so much feedback on an issue than he did over the last week, and said the input was overwhelmingly in favor of the tunnel option if that meant saving the airport’s runway.
“I think it’s a unique asset and I’m going to support this. I do like what Shelley said to put this to a vote. It’s not a bridge too far — it’s a tunnel too far,” Hershey said.
Glenwood Springs City Engineer Terri Partch said the air space study would cost $50,000 to $60,000 and would help the city determine whether a shortened runway is viable.
“The counting of the planes I bet we could do continuously starting in a couple weeks up until the time we want to make a decision about the airspace study itself. That’ll probably be in August,” Partch said, noting that the study would take at least 90 days and be completed sometime in the fall.
FEMA is expected to announce which projects were selected to receive grant funding in Summer 2021. With those funds, the city can begin construction of the tunnel. Without the funding, a public vote will determine the project’s fate.
Correction: The one vote against the air traffic study was incorrectly reported in an earlier version of this story. Councilor Tony Hershey was the lone vote against.
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