Bridge money gap now as much as $15 million
• Pitkin County Board of Commissioners, 1:45 p.m., Plaza 1, 530 E. Main St., Aspen
• Joint Glenwood Springs City Council, Garfield County Board of Commissioners meeting, 5:30 p.m., City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St., Glenwood Springs
The funding shortfall to complete the Grand Avenue Bridge Project in Glenwood Springs could approach $15 million, based on newly refined cost estimates, according to state transportation officials.
“I would characterize the funding gap as $10 million to $15 million,” Joe Elsen, Colorado Department of Transportation program engineer, said Monday. Project leaders will meet today with elected officials from three local governments seeking money to help make up that gap.
The Colorado Bridge Enterprise has a state funding threshold of $99 million for the project, which includes construction as well as planning and design costs, and costs associated with conducting the federally required environmental assessment, according to Elsen.
Anything beyond that will need to be made up through local funding, grants and other state and federal sources, he said.
“Due to circumstances beyond the control of the project team, the total cost is estimated to exceed” that budget, Elsen said in a letter requesting the additional money from the city of Glenwood Springs and both Garfield and Pitkin counties. The new estimates come as the project moves to the 60 percent design plan phase.
The additional cost estimates take into account future increases in labor and materials and any changes that might come about as the bridge design plans reach final completion next spring, Elsen said.
Although the general contractor’s pricing has gone down since the 30 percent design phase earlier this summer, the new estimates account for anticipated increases in subcontractor quotes when that time comes, he said.
“Right now, we have been experiencing about a 25 percent increase statewide in the most recent quarter due to a variety of reasons,” Elsen said.
Bridge project officials will go before Glenwood Springs City Council and the Garfield County commissioners at a joint meeting at 5:30 p.m. today with a request for $3 million from each entity to help make up the funding shortfall.
Bridge officials are also planning to meet with Pitkin County commissioners this afternoon with a similar request. They meet with the Aspen City Council next week. Elsen’s letter calls the bridge, “the vital gateway to the Roaring Fork Valley.”
“We very much need financial and political support from the city of Glenwood Springs and Garfield County to deliver this project,” Elsen writes in the request letter to those entities.
The requested $3 million from each entity could be spread over multiple years, he said.
At a previous meeting with Garfield County commissioners, the board recommended that any county money be designated to help pay for the new pedestrian bridge over the Colorado River that will be part of the larger Highway 82 bridge replacement.
“The city of Glenwood investment would be best utilized as a general contribution to keep grant applications as open as possible,” Elsen’s letter suggests.
Among the design elements specific to local civic and business leaders’ input that have added to the project costs include landscaping, “way-finding” signage, a clocktower that is to be part of the new pedestrian bridge with elevators providing handicapped access to Seventh Street, and various “aesthetic treatments,” according to information included with the funding request.
Failure to come up with the money would jeopardize CDOT’s ability to include some of the design elements that reflect the input of the stakeholders over the last three years, Elsen said.
Earlier this summer, the state’s Inter-mountain Transportation Planning Region committee, made up of representatives from five area counties, gave the Grand Avenue Bridge Project top regional priority for an additional $3.3 million in state highway funding. That money was also intended to help close the funding gap.
Opponents of the bridge project, including the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue group, have questioned the costs to replace the bridge, saying CDOT should work on fixing the existing bridge and focus its efforts on coming up with a Highway 82 bypass that would take highway traffic off Grand Avenue.
The group also opposes local financial participation in the bridge project.
CDOT officials reiterate the purpose of the project in their funding request, pointing out that the bridge was given a “sufficiency rating” by the state of 43.2 out of 100, primarily due to the fact that the 60-year-old structure is too narrow to safely carry four lanes of highway traffic.
Currently, the Grand Avenue bridge carries more than 25,000 vehicles per day. The structure itself is not structurally compromised, but is showing signs of physical deterioration that could lead to safety concerns in the future if it is not replaced, CDOT also notes.
The project calls for replacing the existing bridge with a more direct, curved alignment to the Interstate 70 interchange at Laurel Avenue, rather than the current straight shot to Pine and Sixth streets.
“These planned improvements separate regional and local traffic resulting in significant operational improvements that will reduce the need for future interchange improvements,” CDOT’s letter also states.
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