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Grand Avenue Bridge down to four options

Heather McGregorPost Independent EditorGlenwood Springs, Colorado CO

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Engineers and community leaders have winnowed the 11 alignment options for a new Grand Avenue Bridge down to four, including one option to build a new bridge right where the current bridge is today.The Colorado Department of Transportation is slated to present the four options at a community open house and meeting next week, with time for people to ask questions and express their views on the bridge options.The agency has budgeted $59 million to design and build a new bridge replacing the city’s primary route across the Colorado River.If all goes as planned, the planning process will run through fall 2013, followed by a full year to develop the final bridge design. Construction is expected to take up to two and a half years, from early 2015 until fall of 2017.The four options are:Alternative 1: Build a new four-lane bridge in the existing location, but with a width of 52 feet compared to the existing 40 feet.Alternative 3A: Build a four-lane curved bridge that would arc from Grand Avenue over to Sixth and Laurel, with a small roundabout at the Sixth and Laurel intersection.Alternative 4: Build two bridges: one two-lane bridge on the existing alignment for northbound traffic and one two-lane bridge arcing from Sixth and Laurel back to Grand Avenue for southbound traffic.Alternative 6: Build two bridges: one two-lane bridge on the existing alignment for northbound traffic and one angled two-lane bridge from Sixth and Pine to the 700 block of Colorado Avenue for southbound traffic.CDOT initially presented 11 bridge options, and another three designs for a roundabout at Sixth and Laurel, in April. In an effort to consider creative solutions, the combinations included launching the bridge from Colorado, Grand and Cooper avenues in downtown, and landing the bridge along Sixth Street at Laurel, Maple and Pine streets.CDOT and its project planning consultants, Jacobs Engineering, then listened to feedback from residents, downtown and North Glenwood business owners, and traffic engineers.With comments in hand, CDOT’s technical team weighed the 11 options, comparing similar options to see which ones did the best job of moving traffic, allowing safe pedestrian routes and avoiding impacts to private property.They cut the options to the present four and presented their recommendation and rationale to a separate Project Leadership Team, which consists of community leaders and business owners.”There were a lot of questions,” said Bruce Christensen, a former mayor who sits on the team. “We had a full half-day meeting discussing just this issue, and I felt they answered the questions I had.”

Early on in the technical team’s work, it became obvious that the “couplet” concept, at least the east side of it, wasn’t going to fly. The couplet idea would have taken Highway 82 traffic off Grand Avenue at Ninth and sent northbound traffic down Cooper Avenue to a new two-lane bridge, while carrying southbound traffic from Sixth on a two-lane bridge to Colorado Avenue.But virtually no one liked the idea of moving northbound Highway 82 traffic onto one block of Ninth and the 700 and 800 blocks of Cooper. Noise and air pollution impacts to nearby neighborhoods, traffic congestion, and difficult right-left turns for trucks and buses would make it undesirable.”People didn’t like the S-curves. Why would we introduce that in Glenwood Springs when we have been trying for years to get rid of them in Aspen?” Gaskill said.One version of the Colorado Avenue couplet is still in play, but the two options that diverted Highway 82 traffic onto Cooper Avenue, Nos. 10 and 11, were rejected, said Craig Gaskill, project manager for Jacobs Engineering, the consultant working with CDOT on the project planning.In the same way, the technical team dumped the three options, Nos. 2, 7 and 8, that would have moved the north end of the bridge to Sixth and Maple, which is midway between the existing bridge’s north end at Pine and the Exit 116 intersection at Laurel. A Maple Street touchdown would obliterate several Sixth Street commercial buildings without gaining any other advantages.

Alternatives 5 and 9, both of which involved an arced southbound bridge from Sixth and Laurel to Colorado Avenue, presented a different problem. Because of the elevation differences involved and the shortened distance, the southbound bridges would have required a 6 percent uphill grade coming out of the Sixth and Laurel intersection.”This was not a good geometric solution,” Gaskill said. It would also take out the Glenwood Shell service station.The technical team also analyzed three possible roundabout designs as a makeover for the busy Sixth and Laurel intersection. Only one of the three, a small roundabout that would serve local traffic set apart from through lanes for traffic moving from Highway 82 to I-70, appears to work.A big central roundabout, Option B, would need three lanes and would be extremely difficult for pedestrians to navigate. Both the A and B roundabouts wipe out the Shell station.Option C, a smaller central roundabout combined with two flyover bridges for Highway 82 traffic to connect to I-70, would be terrific for moving traffic, Gaskill said. But it would be a huge, urban-style double-deck structure that could rise as much as 50 feet above the level of the Hot Springs west parking lot. It would cost a bundle of money, Gaskill said, and it would be ugly.What remained after that process, said Gaskill and Elsen, are four alternatives that work from an engineering standpoint and stand a chance of fitting in with the scale and character of Glenwood Springs.Residents of the city and all who travel through through Glenwood Springs are encouraged to attend the public meeting and learn more about the remaining four options.Those who can’t attend or who want to learn more can visit CDOT’s special web pages for the Grand Avenue Bridge project at http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/sh82grandavenuebridge.hmcgregor@postindependent.com


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