Citizen group asks Glenwood Springs residents to ‘vote’ on Grand Avenue Bridge questions
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Citizens to Save Grand Avenue, a group that has been lobbying city and state officials for the past year to scrap plans for a new Grand Avenue Bridge and focus instead on a Highway 82 bypass, is asking city residents what they think on the issue.
Mailers were sent out by the group late last week to 4,200 households within the city of Glenwood Springs posing two questions:
A. Should the Glenwood Springs City Council stop the current plan allowing the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to replace the current Grand Avenue Bridge?
And, B. Should the Glenwood Springs City Council initiate long-range planning with CDOT now to get Hwy 82 off Grand Avenue?
Although marked “Ballot,” the questionnaire has nothing to do with the official state and local coordinated election this fall. Upon opening, the mailer does clarify at the top that it is a public opinion poll and not a binding ballot question.
Even as a poll question, “It’s not a binding question, it’s just an opinion,” said John Haines, chairman of the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue.
“The goal here is to get a true opinion of what the citizens of Glenwood Springs think,” he said.
The group did ask City Council last spring to put the question on an official ballot to present to city voters, even though it would still have been a nonbinding question. That’s because the planned bridge replacement is a CDOT project, and not the city’s.
“They refused to do that, so we took it on to do at our own expense,” Haines said of the approximately $2,400 cost to send out the mailers.
The questionnaire includes a brief pro and con statement regarding CDOT’s plans to spend $60 million from the state’s Bridge Enterprise Fund to replace the Grand Avenue Bridge. It includes lines for two printed names and signatures along with addresses, accounting for households with more than one adult.
Kathryn Trauger, a member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission who writes the “Our Town — Glenwood Springs” blog focusing mostly on transportation-related issues, wrote in her most recent blog entry that, while she admires the Save Grand group’s efforts, the questions are still flawed.
“There are at least three issues with this ‘ballot’ that will essentially render any results invalid,” Trauger wrote in the Sept. 30 entry, titled “Valid opinions, or answers to the wrong questions.”
For one, it suggests that the city has authority “to allow or disallow CDOT to replace the bridge on a state highway. This is simply not the case,” she wrote.
Because the bridge has been rated “functionally obsolete” to continue to be used as a four-lane highway bridge, it’s up to the state to fix or replace it, Trauger pointed out.
“The bottom line is that CDOT is working with the city of Glenwood Springs, but it is CDOT’s responsibility to make sure that the bridges on their state highway system are safe,” she wrote.
As for the second question about the city working with the state to come up with a bypass solution, “this has been a topic of discussion for at least 50 years,” she also wrote.
“The citizens of Glenwood have never come to a consensus on where or if there should be ways to get through or around town that do not include Grand Avenue,” Trauger said, offering that perhaps another study could provide that answer, but not before the existing bridge will need to be replaced.
Haines said the questionnaire is at least an attempt to gauge public opinion on the current bridge replacement plan and to start the ball rolling again toward talking about a long-term bypass solution.
The Save Grand group asks that the questionnaires be returned by Oct. 8.
“We will count them and see what the opinion of the people is, and then make that opinion public,” Haines said. The results will also be reported to City Council and to state transportation officials, he said.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.