Glenwood Springs City Council rejects idea for bridge advisory vote
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — City Council will not refer an advisory question to voters regarding the planned replacement of the Grand Avenue Bridge, and will let the Colorado Department of Transportation’s environmental review of the project play out.
“We are talking about a bridge replacement, but there is not a lot of clarity at this point about what’s being proposed … how it will look, and how it will function,” Councilman Dave Sturges noted during a discussion of the ballot proposal by the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue at the regular Thursday council meeting.
Sturges said he may support a ballot question in the future once those details are more clear, even if it’s just a non-binding advisory vote.
“I would remain open to a question at some point, if the final plan is not something that’s acceptable to citizens,” he said. “Just not at this time.”
Other members of the council were reluctant to consider an open-ended advisory vote at any point, now or in the future.
“We could spend six months just discussing how to word a ballot question,” Councilor Matt Steckler said. “The fact is, we are a representative democracy, not a direct democracy.”
Steckler said citizens do have a voice through the formal environmental assessment process.
“That’s what were trying to get done here,” he said.
The Save Grand group has been lobbying to convince city leaders and CDOT to halt planning for the bridge, in favor of a broader study and planning effort to determine a potential bypass option that would take State Highway 82 off of Grand Avenue.
“The fundamental issue of whether Highway 82 should be relocated has never been presented to the people of this region to decide,” Glenwood Springs resident Jim Denton said. “I say let the people most affected speak out en masse before we allow CDOT to proceed with this bridge.”
It’s not an “either-or” question between a new bridge on Grand or a bypass, Councilman Mike Gamba said.
“We can’t take the $60 million for the bridge and use it on a bypass,” Gamba said of the Colorado Bridge Enterprise funds that have been allocated for the Grand Avenue Bridge replacement.
“If we do that, we just get stuck with a 60-year-old bridge that’s deficient and unsafe,” Gamba said. “We need a new bridge, it’s a simple fact, whether it’s on Highway 82 or Grand Avenue.”
Scale bridge model on tour
Meanwhile, during a pre-meeting work session with CDOT’s bridge project team, council got its first look at a new three-dimensional scale model of the proposed bridge and related improvements.
The model will be on display for the public at CDOT’s Strawberry Days booth this weekend, and at the Tuesday night Downtown Market throughout the summer, project spokesman Tom Newland said. Presentations to various civic groups and service organizations are also going to be scheduled, he said.
The model details the proposed new bridge alignment from Grand Avenue on the south and curving west across the Union Pacific Railroad, the Colorado River and Interstate 70 to a reconfigured intersection at Sixth and Laurel streets.
Also new from the project team are renderings of four different pedestrian bridge designs. In addition to the highway bridge replacement, CDOT is also planning to replace the existing pedestrian bridge across the river.
During the discussion with the bridge planning team, council also reiterated the city’s desire to plan ways to mitigate traffic, noise and other impacts during the bridge construction in two years.
The city is hoping to complete an extension of Eighth Street from the downtown area to Seventh Street and Midland Avenue to serve as a possible detour route during the anticipated two-month bridge closure. CDOT is working on a plan to minimize the closure period by building the bridge in sections while keeping the existing bridge open for most of the construction period.
CDOT officials have indicated that some of the bridge funds could be used to help with off-site mitigation, including detour improvements.
In addition to Eighth Street, Councilman Todd Leahy said he would like other ways to improve connectivity within the city, such as upgrading the Devereux Road bridge, looking at a potential new 14th Street bridge connection and improvements to the 27th Street bridge, to be weighed in the planning process.
“Anything you can do to get this town comfortable with this new bridge, the better,” Leahy said. “If you can help people move around better, you might see more people get on board with this.”
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The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association is working with local businesses and organizations to celebrate the spirit of Strawberry Days with a Berry Special Weekend from June 18-20, according to a news release.