Bridge document seeks to quell city concerns
Concerns expressed by Glenwood Springs officials about what they felt was a lack of detail contained in the Grand Avenue bridge environmental assessment were addressed with the release of the federal decision document this week that clears the way for the project to proceed.
A significant portion of the official “finding of no significant impact,” or FONSI, deals with the roughly 175 comments received late last year during the 60-day public comment period after the project analysis was released for public inspection.
Responses from the Colorado Department of Transportation’s project planning team to those comments are included in a 288-page attachment that accompanies the larger bridge decision document that was formally released Tuesday.
The decision completes the federal environmental assessment (EA) for the bridge project, meaning CDOT can move forward with its plans to replace the 62-year-old state Highway 82 bridge that crosses the Colorado River in downtown Glenwood Springs to Interstate 70.
A full 34 pages are devoted to a wide range of concerns expressed by City Council and city staff related to the two-year-planning effort and certain understandings between the city and CDOT regarding the bridge design and protection of the city’s historic character.
A Dec. 15, 2014, letter to CDOT expressed serious reservations on the part of City Council about the EA, and whether it fully reflected the city’s expectations.
Rest assured, said project officials in their formal response.
“The public, agencies and the city of Glenwood Springs have all provided meaningful input into the project’s purpose and need,” CDOT states, adding that it is “committed to incorporating the aesthetic treatment and urban design elements … that have been, and continue to be, vetted with stakeholders.”
That process will continue as bridge designers work to refine the various architectural and aesthetic treatments “to reflect the materials and architectural style of Glenwood Springs’ small-town character and historic structures.”
Because the EA itself is a “snapshot in time,” according to CDOT, much of that design detail was not included, but is being memorialized in a series of agreements now before the city for consideration. The first of those agreements, related to protecting the historic character of Glenwood Springs with the bridge design, was approved by City Council last month.
CDOT’s response goes on to address, point by point, more than 100 specific questions, concerns and comments posed by the city, all of which are contained in the Federal Highway Administration’s document.
Bridge officials also addressed the numerous comments submitted by other government and business agencies and the scores of citizens who weighed in on the project analysis, both in written comments and at a Nov. 19, 2014, public hearing.
Several of those who commented, including members of the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue who have been opposed to the bridge project, were critical of CDOT for pursuing the new $110 million to $115 million bridge replacement without fully considering options for a bypass that would take Highway 82 off of Grand Avenue.
Specifically, the new bridge does not address the problems associated with large volumes of traffic passing through downtown Glenwood Springs, such as traffic congestion, speeding, pollution and pedestrian conflicts, said several of those who commented.
Responding to a comment by Glenwood resident Ed Rosenberg along those lines, CDOT officials acknowledged, “It is correct that replacing the existing bridge does not solve larger traffic or regional transportation issues, as well as some of the related effects …
“The purpose of this project, as stated in the EA, is to provide a safe, secure and effective multimodal connection from downtown Glenwood Springs to the historic Hot Springs area while addressing structural and functional issues with the aging bridge structure …” CDOT said in its response.
Responding to Carbondale resident Jim Breasted, who also commented at the public hearing, CDOT said: “The issue of a bypass that would address traffic and transportation issues is separate from this project, which addresses deficiencies of the aging bridge.”
CDOT has repeatedly said that the fact the Grand Avenue bridge is being replaced, using Colorado Bridge Enterprise money designated for that purpose, does not preclude a future bypass being studied and possibly built.
The complete decision document is now posted on the Grand Avenue bridge project website. Printed copies are also available for viewing at the CDOT office on Centennial Street, Glenwood Springs City Hall and the Glenwood Springs Public Library.
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