Council OKs bridge pact on historical features
The first and most immediately crucial agreement regarding the Grand Avenue bridge replacement, regarding downtown Glenwood Springs’ historical features, has earned City Council’s approval, clearing the way for a final decision document to be issued later this month.
Council, at its May 7 meeting, unanimously approved a formal Memorandum of Agreement, or MOA, with the Colorado Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and other agencies involved in drafting the document.
The MOA spells out how bridge project planners intend to mitigate any impacts on historical structures and features that could come with the new bridge, as well as the aesthetic treatments with the bridge design itself.
“I am convinced we will be able to work through these items and protect our downtown,” Councilor Kathryn Trauger said. “I think this will work.”
The agreement directs CDOT to mitigate for historical impacts in several ways, including:
• Consulting with the city’s Historic Preservation Commission to develop an interpretive panel addressing the broader history of the various bridges across the Colorado River.
• Installing landscape features, such as planter walls and shrubs to replace several trees that will be lost where the bridge touches down on Grand Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets.
• Incorporating building materials into the new highway and pedestrian bridge designs that are consistent with the character of downtown Glenwood Springs.
CDOT is to consult with the preservation commission on each of these three items by December 2017 before finalizing the plans.
The city is to be responsible for maintaining any landscape features outside the highway right of way that are included with the bridge project once it is complete.
Preservation commission member Bobbi Hodge expressed concerns at the May 7 council meeting about keeping CDOT to its word regarding replacement of the vegetation in the 700 block of Grand.
“If it’s not completely spelled out, it’s not going to happen,” she said.
Hodge also emphasized that the historic buildings in that block must be protected from the spray of passing traffic on a bridge that will be somewhat higher than the current structure.
City Manager Jeff Hecksel said some of that is spelled out in other agreements the city is negotiating with the bridge planners.
Three additional agreements under consideration deal with operation and maintenance responsibilities between the city and CDOT, joint use of the new bridge right of way, and a funding agreement for the city’s $3 million contribution toward the bridge project.
Those agreements will continue to be ironed out over the next few months. But the historical mitigation agreement was of more immediate concern, because it was needed before project officials can issue the final decision document related to the Environmental Assessment that was completed last fall.
Joe Elsen, CDOT Region 3 program engineer, said after Thursday’s meeting that the decision document is anticipated around May 20. That would pave the way for construction to begin on aspects of the new bridge by later this year or early 2016.
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