DDA won’t seek federal grant for Glenwood Springs’ 8th Street connection

John Stroud
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Although the Downtown Development Authority recently decided against submitting a federal transportation grant application for the envisioned Eighth Street extension, Glenwood Springs City Council may still move the project up on its funding priority list.

“We just had too many negotiations in process that weren’t settled enough to proceed to a design for the project,” DDA Executive Director Leslie Bethel said of a decision late last week to scrap an application for the fifth and final round of federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) funding to build the Eighth Street connection.

“A lot of people have rallied together to put this together, and there is a lot of interest in making this happen,” she said. “But there were just too many loose ends that need to be given enough time to be thoughtfully addressed.”

Among them are ongoing negotiations with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA), which owns the railroad “wye” section that would need to be crossed in order to complete the street connection west of Glenwood Springs City Hall through the confluence area.

The Union Pacific Railroad also still has rights to use the section of track, though the company has recently indicated some willingness to give up that right in exchange for safety improvements between Seventh Street and the main UP line. Those talks are also still in the early stages, Bethel said.

“By not rushing things [with the federal grant application], there may be a broader range of solutions available that we could discuss,” she said.

Meanwhile, city council is set to discuss at its regular meeting tonight whether to divert some of the money it had budgeted for other design and engineering projects this year to the Eighth Street project.

During a special May 6 meeting where council agreed to have the city participate with the DDA in the grant proposal, there was a strong feeling that the street connection should be pursued in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Transportation’s plans to replace the Grand Avenue Bridge.

If the Eighth Street connection could be accomplished within the next two years, the city could be ahead of CDOT’s preliminary 2015 start for the bridge construction.

That work will likely require at least a two-month closure of the existing Grand Avenue/Highway 82 bridge at some point. CDOT has proposed using Midland Avenue from Interstate 70 Exit 114 to 27th Street as a Highway 82 detour during the bridge closure period.

However, if the Eighth Street connection were in place, that would provide another detour option for the city and CDOT to consider.

“It is staff’s understanding that the Eighth Street connection should be completed regardless of whether the city receives a TIGER grant,” City Manager Jeff Hecksel wrote in a memo to city council that went out before the DDA made its decision to pull the grant proposal.

To accomplish anything this year would require the city to divert time and funding from other projects, Hecksel said in the memo.

Council is set to discuss and possibly consider moving design and engineering funding from projects related to South Midland Avenue improvements, a Three Mile Creek pedestrian bridge and 27th Street Bridge repairs to the Eighth Street project instead.

Hecksel recommended putting $410,000 toward the design work for the street connection.

“Additional funds may be needed in 2014, and the city will need to begin setting money aside for construction,” he said in his memo.

Mayor Leo McKinney said he intends to take up the conversation, even though the grant proposal is not going forward.

“This is something that has been on the city’s radar for a long time,” he said. “With the bridge project coming along, we may need this [street connection] to help with the mitigation of that project.”

Also on the city council’s agenda for tonight will be a possible final decision on the State Highway 82 Access Control Plan after several months of discussion and public comments.

The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. at Glenwood Springs City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St., in the council chambers.

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