Garfield County lends support to South Bridge assessment
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Short of committing to help fund the proposed South Bridge project, at least two of three Garfield County commissioners say they support in concept the findings of a study calling for a new route across the Roaring Fork River to Highway 82 south of Glenwood Springs.
“This does take care of a couple of problem intersections,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said Tuesday in reference to improvements at Four Mile Road and Midland Avenue, and a new consolidated intersection in the Red Canyon area on Highway 82 that would come with the project.
The busy area along the state highway that is now defined by a hodge-podge of county road intersections and private driveways is perhaps more troublesome than the Cattle Creek intersection four miles upvalley toward Carbondale, Jankovsky said.
Much of the county’s attention recently has gone to redesigning the Cattle Creek intersection instead, in conjunction with a planned new residential development there.
“I don’t want this to tie us into anything financially,” Jankovsky stressed. “But I would like for us to comment in support of the findings.”
Commissioners voted 2-1 following a presentation of the EA findings to sign the letter of support. Commissioner Mike Samson sided with Jankovsky, while Commissioner John Martin was opposed.
The environmental assessment (EA) for the estimated $39 million project was released in October. Project planners, including the city of Glenwood Springs, the county, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, are in the middle of a formal 30-day review and public comment period.
A required public hearing is slated for 5-7:30 p.m. today at the Glenwood Springs Community Center, including a presentation and time for questions from 6-7 p.m. The public comment period remains open through Nov. 21.
The study analyzes the long-envisioned proposal to build a southern route from Midland Avenue along Airport Road and across the river to a new Highway 82 intersection just south of the Holy Cross Energy office building.
Martin said he couldn’t support the proposed routing option for the project at this time.
“There are just too many unanswered questions,” Martin said in reference to what he saw as some loose ends in the study and cost-sharing agreements that would need to be reached before the route is built.
The project, as proposed, would include a tunnel beneath the south end of the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport runway connecting to a bridge across the river that could be designed to accommodate large truck traffic, according to project officials.
Pedestrian and bike traffic on the Rio Grande Trail that parallels Highway 82 would be accommodated with an underpass near the highway intersection.
The South Bridge route was proposed in response to concerns that arose following the 2002 Coal Seam Fire.
It was pointed out at the time that Glenwood Springs was lacking a secondary evacuation route for the southern section of town west of the Roaring Fork River, and the Four- and Three Mile areas in unincorporated Garfield County in the event of a wildfire or other natural disaster.
Congress approved a $5 million earmark in 2005 that began the EA process. Approximately $3 million remains in the earmark fund to proceed toward the engineering, property acquisition and construction phases, city engineer Terri Partch said.
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The Bureau of Land Management reported a 20-acre fire along Baxter Pass in far western Garfield County on Monday night.