GarCo commissioners reiterate bridge support
A hearing to take comments on the Grand Avenue Bridge Environmental Assessment and the proposed construction plans is set for 5-8 p.m. Nov. 19 at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, 915 School St.
Garfield County commissioners offered no specific comments Monday on the recently released Grand Avenue Bridge Environmental Assessment, other than to reiterate support for the preferred new bridge alignment and construction mitigation plan outlined in the document.
Commissioners, by a 2-1 vote with Chairman John Martin dissenting, also renewed their commitment to come up with $3 million over the next three years to help make up a projected shortfall to pay for the estimated $110 million-plus State Highway 82 bridge replacement in downtown Glenwood Springs.
The county’s money is intended to pay for part of the new, $8 million pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks, the Colorado River and Interstate 70 that is to be included as part of the larger project.
“I would like to see this project move forward,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said, pointing to the decision this summer by the five-county Intermountain Transportation Planning Region committee giving top priority to the Glenwood Springs bridge project.
That decision by representatives from Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin, Summit and Lake counties should free up another $3 million or so in discretionary state transportation dollars to help make up some of the budget overruns, Jankovsky noted.
Commissioner Mike Samson also pointed to the regional support for the project in voting to endorse the plans to replace the 61-year-old bridge.
Colorado Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration officials released the formal Environmental Assessment for the bridge replacement project in late October.
The EA outlines the process over the past three years to work with local government and business leaders and residents to come up with the preferred new bridge alignment, which is proposed to run from Grand Avenue south of the river to a reconfigured intersection and I-70 interchange at Sixth and Laurel.
The document also explains the costs, design elements and plans to mitigate traffic and business disruptions during the projected two-and-a-half year bridge construction period.
Plans call for construction to begin as early as next summer, with a 90-day Highway 82 detour during the spring of 2017 when the existing bridge would need to be demolished and the final segment of the new bridge installed.
County Commissioner Martin declined to join his fellow commissioners in supporting the bridge replacement.
“I like the old bridge,” Martin said, adding he feels obligated to represent “the voice of the downtown people who don’t want this change.”
“The entire complexion of Glenwood Springs will be changing with this, and it just becomes a thoroughfare to Pitkin County and Aspen,” Martin said.
Martin also said the state of Colorado should be more than capable of coming up with the extra money needed to make up any shortfalls, rather than asking local governments to contribute.
In addition to the county’s commitment, Glenwood Springs City Council has also agreed to come up with $3 million over three years to help make up the difference. Neighboring Pitkin County and the city of Aspen have also been asked to contribute.
The formal 30-day public comment period continues until Dec. 1. However, City Council has asked that the comment period be continued until January so city staff and council members can have time to review the document and offer more specific comments on the plan.
Mike Vanderhoof, CDOT Region 3 environmental planning director, said an extension is possible but the project planners would prefer to stick to the schedule and get to a formal record of decision by February.
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