Council candidates mostly supportive of bridge plans
Glenwood candidates issues & answers night
When: 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 3
Where: Glenwood Springs City Hall
What: City Council candidates forum, including Ward 1 candidates Russ Arensman and Steve Davis, and the three candidates for the At-Large seat, Tony Hershey, Kathryn Trauger and Kathy Williams. The public is invited and encouraged to attend. Ron Milhorn, news director of Colorado West Broadcasting/KMTS Radio, will moderate.
The event will also be broadcast live on Cable Channel 10 and re-broadcast several times afterward. A video of this forum will be available after the event at www.glenwoodchamber.com.
Election Day is April 7. Ballots will be mailed March 16.
Editor’s note: This story was written before Tuesday’s candidate forum, but examines City Council contenders’ views on the Grand Avenue bridge and related matters more specifically.
There’s little disagreement among the five candidates vying for two contested seats in the upcoming Glenwood Springs City Council election about one of the biggest questions facing the city.
The Grand Avenue bridge needs to be replaced, and the current plan by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) seems like a logical solution, or at least a foregone conclusion.
Bridge-related questions are likely to get a fair amount of attention when Ward 1 candidates Russ Arensman and Steve Davis, and the three candidates running for the at-large seat, Tony Hershey, Kathryn Trauger and Kathy Williams, meet for the Glenwood Chamber’s Issues and Answers forum tonight.
The forum begins at 5 p.m. at Glenwood Springs City Hall, in the Council chambers, and will include a mix of prepared questions as well as those from the audience.
Four City Council seats are to be decided in the April 7 election, for which ballots will be mailed to eligible voters on March 16.
Ward 3 incumbent Mike Gamba and Ward 4 incumbent Todd Leahy are running unopposed for re-election, while current at-large Councilman Dave Sturges is term-limited and Ward 1 Councilman Ted Edmonds has decided not to run again.
This is hardly a single-issue election, as questions related to city transportation improvements in general, growth and development, housing needs, utility costs, effectiveness of city government, and a host of other concerns are on the list.
Regarding the bridge question, though, the Post Independent quizzed the candidates in a series of recent one-on-one interviews and found agreement on CDOT’s bridge replacement plans.
“I’m for a new bridge,” said Williams, calling the current bridge, with its narrow lanes and indirect connection between Interstate 70 and Highway 82/Grand Avenue “a disaster.”
“I do see both sides,” she said of citizens who oppose the bridge replacement as it’s now being planned. “We need another way across the river, and I am concerned about what’s happening to the businesses downtown with all the traffic.”
Trauger and Hershey both support the realigned bridge as currently proposed in CDOT’s formal Environmental Assessment. They’re also willing to look at Highway 82 bypass options.
“We need to take some stress off of Grand Avenue, that’s a huge issue,” said Trauger, who would like to see the conversation about a potential bypass take place sooner rather than later.
“It seems like there is some willingness to move forward on that, but we have to get some community consensus on where to put it,” Trauger said.
Hershey said he isn’t opposed to studying a bypass, but wonders if it’s worth the effort and expense.
“I’m not a huge fan of studying something that’s not realistic,” Hershey said of the likely neighborhood opposition to any of the limited route options.
“What I don’t want is to get distracted from what we need to do now,” which is to replace the existing bridge, he said.
Arensman and Davis also both support the bridge project.
“It needs to be done, and I don’t know how anyone can sit there and say it doesn’t need to be replaced,” Davis said. “What the city does need to do is work to mitigate the damage that will be done to downtown businesses during the construction.”
Arensman said CDOT has done a good job of listening to the community on the bridge design, and supports the plan.
“The state is ready to give us $100 million to build a new bridge, and we’d be crazy not to take advantage of that,” he said.
Though open to studying a bypass, Arensman is adamant that the river confluence area that is envisioned for eventual redevelopment should be avoided as a potential route at all costs, while Davis questions whether a majority of Grand Avenue businesses would support moving the highway.
All of the candidates agreed that the city needs to work toward building more connecting routes in different parts of town to help local traffic move about more easily without further stress on Grand Avenue.
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Glenwood Springs’ officials continue to ask residents and visitors to use caution particularly around river access points within the city’s numerous parks.